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2016年11月20日 星期日

The Regal Concierto de Aranjuez--Xuefei Yang 楊雪霏皇后式的阿蘭惠斯協奏曲



Xuefei Yang (楊雪霏) is a collector. She collects all kinds of firsts: she started learning to play the classical guitar at 7, appeared at the First China International Guitar Festival at 10, played to a Tokyo audience at 12 and made a guitar debut in Madrid at 14 and was lent two of John Williams’ Greg Smallman guitars at 15 and became the first guitarist ever to receive an international scholarship from the Royal Schools of Music for her studies at the Royal Academy of Music from which she graduated in 2002 at 25 with distinction, after first having studied at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. She is the winner of countless guitar awards and has appeared in concert halls of England, Ireland, Spain, France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Finland, America, Japan and Australia. I got several of her excellent CD's. So it was with great expectations that I attended her concert with the HKPO last Saturday under the baton of our guest conductor Alexander Shelley.

But we did not begin with her from the start of the concert which began and ended with two jazz pieces from the legendary George Gershwin who was told to remain a first class Gershwin instead
of becoming a second class Ravel when he approached the latter for lessons. Schoenberg had this to say about Gershwin: "It seems to me beyond doubt that Gershwin was an innovator. What he has done with rhythm, harmony and melody is not merely style. It is fundamentally different from the mannerism of many a serious composer. Such mannerism is based on artificial presumptions, which are gained by speculation and are conclusions drawn from the fashions and aims current among contemporary composers at certain times. Such a style is a superficial union of devices applied to a minimum of idea, without any inner reason or cause. Such music could be taken to pieces and put together in a different way, and the result would be the same nothingness expressed by another mannerism. One could not do this with Gershwin's music. His melodies are not products of a combination, nor of a mechanical union, but they are units and could therefore not be taken to pieces. Melody, harmony and rhythm are not welded together, but cast. ..But the impression is that of an improvisation with all the merits and shortcomings appertaining to this kind of production. Their effect in this regard might be compared to that of an oration which might disappoint you when you read and examine it as with a magnifying glass – you miss what touched you so much, when you were overwhelmed by the charm of the orator's personality. One has probably to add something of one's own to reestablish the first effect. But it is always that way with art – you get from a work about as much as you are able to give to it yourself."

The first piece of Gershwin we had was An American in Paris which the HKPO had performed numerous times previously. The direction by Alexander Shelley was very forceful and rhythmic but the piece still appears a bit disorganized in places but otherwise quite good.






Then we had the famous guitar concierto of Aranjuez by the blind Joaquin Rodrigo in Allegro con spirito, Adagio and Allegro gentile. This piece is supposed to record Rodrigo's impressions of the Philip II's Palaccio Real (Royal Palace) and gardens of Aranjuez built by him in the 16th century and later rebuilt in the 18th, its fragrance, its bird songs and the sound of its fountains. The concierto is known to all guitar players and to anyone who has listened to any classical guitar music at all. Xuefei Yang played with impeccable articulation but with a very feminine sensitivity in the softer and more flowing passages. She got thunderous  applauses for which she rewarded us with a Brazilian piece in which she displays her technical finesse with her fingers running up and down the fingerboard and all kinds of harmonics and pizzicatos.  







The second part of the concert was another very Spanish piece written by a Frenchman,  Georges Bizet. This is another extremely popular piece. We had the orchestral version of the Prelude, the Aragonaise, intermezzo, Sequedille, Les Dragons d'Alcala, Habanera and the song of the Torreadors. The HKPO improved enormously from the second piece on and with this work, went back into its true form. The climax sent the audience into an ecstatic mood.






















After the musical journey into Spain, we returned to 20th century America in the last piece,  Porgy and Bess--A Symphonic Picture, a piece which Robert Russell Bennett re-arranged for the orchestra from Gershwin's original musical about a love romance about the blacks in the deep south of America.It meshed together various popular tunes from the original music with plenty of changes of mood. And as in all jazz musical, the general mood is  jerky, jaunty, light and lively, interspersed with a tad of blues. It brought the concert at the Cultural Centre to a most  happy conclusion that evening.