Monday, December 5, 2016

concert review: China Philharmonic

Yes, yes, I've been close to 3 weeks in England and Wales, and I'll report on it soon, once I get my photos and my sleep schedule organized. I didn't have any trouble adjusting to the time going there, but coming back has been a bear, as it usually is for me going west, and even the caffeine equivalent of two cups of coffee barely kept me going through tonight's concert at Davies.

I know why I went to the UK, but I'm not sure why the China Philharmonic and its artistic director, Long Yu, traveled all this way to give bog-standard performances of bog-standard repertoire like Beethoven's First Piano Concerto and Dvorak's New World Symphony. They're great pieces, but we can hear them any time from anybody. All that was unusual tonight were some emphases in the Dvorak and a bizarrely wooden way of playing the "weeping" ending of his slow movement.

And the pianist in the Beethoven, whose name is Serena Wang and who is Twelve. Years. Old. with feet dangling from the piano bench. Her performance was entirely competent, so it seems churlish to have to report that it was also rather stiff. She gets an A for learning her part, but she's not going to win any piano competition votes from me, not this year. Come back in another few and we'll see.

As with most such programs, there was an imported curtain-raiser, Enchantements oublies by Qigang Chen. As the title suggests, this is, like much Western music by East Asian composers, heavily influenced by French impressionism, and in particular in this case by Chen's teacher, Messiaen.

But what most impressed me was the encore, a little piece of Chinese folk music whose characteristic bent notes and micro-glissandi were handled with a confident assurance by the Chinese violinists that no non-native could match. This is the kind of music they're good at, and it's more of this they should be playing, not trying to best Westerners at a European game.

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