After a protracted and unexpected fourth wave of the pandemic, the Hong Kong Philharmonic reconvened after a long absence on the 12 March 2021. With an orchestra fully masked (save for the woodwinds and brass), and conductor Dorian Wilson outfitted in a see through face covering, the orchestra delivered a series of pieces appropriately inspired at least in part by dances from 'the folk' from three different continents.
Ginastera's Variaciones Concertantes provides a fitting travelogue through the orchestra over seven different instrumental pairs. Harp, viola and bass emerge as unusual stars. Only at the end does the full orchestra emerge in support of a gaucho dance.
While Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue continues to bedevil attempts at categorization, it is inseparable from the emergence of jazz as a popular art form, and so closely identified with African-derived dances such as the 'Charleston'. With quasi-improvisational piano runs flawlessly executed by Vanessa Wong Wai-yin, the soulful syncopation proves elusive, as does the proper tempo. Most agree Gerswhin envisioned a veritable sprint throughout, while most orchestras seem to prefer an almost leisurely stroll, which leaves the iconic 'King Kong'-like theme sounding rather comic.
Dvořák's Eighth Symphony, which features not only one but two traditional Czech dances, infuses the aimable 'sauvage' into rigid German structures of development, which the orchestra manages with aplomb, both united in their way in a higher synthesis of people, performance and sound.
Copyright © 17 March 2021
Adam J Sacks,
Hong Kong, China