After much debate, junior reporter Ruby Leung was named winner of the International Chamber Music Festival's review writing competition. Her prize is a Four Seasons CD autographed by renowned violinist Cho-Liang Lin and a pair of movie tickets.
Two weeks ago, 15 junior reporters took up the challenge of becoming one of the youngest classical music critics.
They learned the basics from Sam Olluver, the South China Morning Post's freelance music critic. Then, they attended the Virtuoso Passion concert at City Hall Concert Hall to write their best reviews. Check out Ruby's winning piece and extracts from two other fine reviews…
There was indeed much passion at the gala opening night concert of the Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival, even though violinist Kyoko Takezawa and cellist Gary Hoffman were unable to come to Hong Kong owing to illness and back injury, respectively.
The programme opened with contemporary composer Osvaldo Golijov's Last Round for two string quartets and double bass. The two movements create a sad but passionate tango, which somehow reminded me of Romeo and Juliet before they die. It was followed by Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla's Suite arranged for four violins and bass, also a tango piece, and Italian composer Giovanni Bottesini's Grand Duo Concertante for violin (Ning Feng) and double bass (Zhang Daxun).
Vivaldi's Four Seasons was vigorously played by a different violin soloist for each season. Henning Kraggerud's Spring was lively and joyful, where the birds were chirping over-excitedly. Summer, which was played by Cho-Liang Lin, was particularly impressive in the first movement as the thunder "roared majestically", reflecting the sonnets associated with each season.
Clara-Jumi Kang did a really great job for Autumn. The dynamics were well-handled, from the cheering and dancing of the peasants' celebrations to their enjoyment of slumber in the opening movement, and from the excitement of the hunters to the wounded beast's death in the third movement.
Winter was played by Ning Feng, and the "horrid wind" and the "teeth chattering in the extreme cold" in the fast opening movement was well captured; the slow movement's raindrops were also well depicted.
In response to the enthusiastic audience who clapped non-stop, the four soloists and bass took the stage again for an encore with Vittorio Monti's Czardas.
Ruby Leung (edited by Sam Olluver)
Four Seasons by Vivaldi was a treat. Spring, by Henning Kraggerud, was awakening and joyous, though the thunderstorm could have been more violent. The second movement of Spring was dream-like, melodious and expressive, progressing to the last movement, festive and dance-y.
Winter, soloed by Ning Feng, was astonishing. Not only could I "see" the slippery ice, chilly wind and fierce snowstorm, but also the contentment of being curled up by a fireplace while hearing raindrops pattering the window. Overall, the concert was beautifully played.
Piazzolla's Suite impressed me the most throughout the evening. A pizzicato cello gave a jolly start. When the piece transformed from fast to slow, calm strings added a graceful quality. Although the next movement did not sufficiently animate the fiendishness of the devil, the third movement came back as a success. The wistful melody imbued a tingle of melancholy into the air. Vivacity sprang to the fourth movement. The unconstrained yet in-sync articulation of strings manifested itself in the spirit of tango, enthralling the audience.