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2016年4月3日 星期日

Another Night with the HKPO (又一港樂之夜)

Because of events at the HK Arts Festival and the HKIFF, I haven't heard the HKPO for a while now. So it's a most congenial experience to be listening to that fine orchestra again at the Cultural Centre last night. What's more. I got a bonus: the world premiere of a new piece commissioned by the HKPO by what to me is a new Chinese composer, Du Wei's Seven Nights under the baton of Yu Long. Since I never previously heard any of her works. So after the concert I did some checking through the internet. It appears that she is a well-established composer having had already a number of works under her name like Nora (opera), Niao Qing Si-The Interrupted Dream, The Last Gold of Expired Star (orchestral works),  Nightmare in the Red Chamber, Exotic Perfume, Tinge (chamber music), And I am dumb to Tell (quintet) and The Color of Love and The Golden Lotus (ballets) and has also composed screen music for such films as Tian Zhuangzhuang's The Warrior and the Wolf (2009) , Li Shaohong's A Dream in Red Mansions (2010) and the Heart Sutra sung by Faye Wong.


The Seven Nights is a short work in the symphonic poem tradition with very colorful sonic images and very rich and complex sounds using the entire range of orchestral musical instruments and sounds which suggest the style of another late Romantic composer whose work was featured in same concert: Richard Strauss. According to the Programme Notes, she was reading the works of one of my favourite Argentinian novelists J L Borges and was touched by the novelist's description of the nightmare as a "fable of the night"  and that she treated her own composition as a kind of psychological therapy for dealing with her own "phobias". Amongst the images which inspired this piece of bizarre work are: Pina Bauch's slender fingers reaching towards a hopeless future, the cinematic image of one of Ingmar Bergman's long take filled with silent tears, (probably his Silence?), the ambiguity and hypocrisy in the male-female relationships etc.  She seems a most talented composer who doesn't go for the kind of self-consciously intellectual minimalist techniques used by many other contemporary Chinese composers and sticks fairly closely to the more "traditional" style of orchestral musical composition and for that reason much more listenable. Must try to listen to more of her works in future.

Du Wei's work was followed by a very traditional work:Haydn's Cello Concerto No. 1 in C major which according to Programme Notes was discovered in a remote castle, the ancestral home of a Czechoslovakian nobleman and is believed to be be intended for a famous cellist at the time, Joseph Weigl who played for Prince Esterhazy from 1761 to 1769. It was a most conventional work, written in the style which one has come to expect from Haydn; elegant, measured, flowing and gay. No surprises at all. The cello solo was very sensitively played for us by one of the best Chinese cellists around Jian Wang. Jian Wang gave us two encores a Chinese piece and another by Bach. I like the way he played, careful, with feeling, with nuances, smooth, flowing, natural, without idiosyncratic and extraneous romantic fireworks.

After the interval, it was the turn for a very dramatic and bombastic work by Richard Straus, made very popular as the theme music in the opening scene of that cinematic blockbuster by Stanley Kubrick, Space Odyssey 2001, his Thus Spake Zarathustra. Thus Spake Zarathustra is a philosophical drama written by one of my favourite philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche. In that work, that "mad philosopher" managed to tie together various strands of his thought about the corruption of European culture by the slave-like virtues of Christianity which threatened to emasculate the German people of its native vitality and love of life and prophesied the coming of a new type of man, bold, self-assured and prepared to endure all kinds of pain and suffering for the realization of their own nature, beyond all conventional standards of good and evil. The programme music was Strauss' tribute to Nietzsche about which he was obviously most enthusiastic. He is reported to have said to his wife: "Zarathustra is glorious. The climaxes are immense and faultlessly scored". The music featured various titles for the different sections: "Of Those at the Back of the World", "Of Great Longing", "Of Joys and Passions' "The Dirge", "Science" "The Convalescent" and the "Dance Song" all references to various themes in Nietzsche's allegorical and prophetic drama.  It was late Romantic music at one of its most bombastic, featuring all kinds of brass and percussive sounds and including the majestic sound of that king of all musical instruments, the organ, in synchrony, in cacophony, in harmony and numerous variations and interweaving of such. Quite apart from its dramatic opening,  I really like the way he introduces the so-called "World Riddle Theme", in the first section, starting first dramatically and then becoming very quiet and lyrical and then gradually getting more and more striving, its dramatic climax and also the quiet and steady recall of the main theme which gradually fades back into silence seems a most fitting conclusion to another night of wonderful music..