A performance of Prokoviev's Peter and the Wolf, such as that by the Hong Kong Sinfonietta at HK City Hall Concert Hall on 10 April 2021, while a rite of passage for children, is also a reminder of the capacity of music to endow and nurture in children both a symbolic language and an understanding of the natural world.
Prokoviev's biography is itself a singular and counterintuitive teachable case as an artist, who voluntarily ventured back and submitted to what is too often in the West reductively labeled yet another case of totalitarianism, early Soviet Russia. Filled to the brim with youthful vigor, his Classical Symphony fittingly returns to Haydn, a birth moment of European art music, just at the time, that in the aftermath of the February Revolution of 1917, one decidedly constitutional and bourgeois, Russians believed to be parenting a whole new age for their world.
Even an extra dose of breathless haste to further bolster Yip Wing-sie's conducting would not have been out of place for the thrilling finale. Admirable outreach from the conductor's podium did transpire to encourage the engagement of children, hopefully a new generation of classical music supporters, who were given plastic sheets by the house to facilitate photo sharing.
Characteristic orchestral instruments as animals were well emphasized: oboe, as duck, grandfather as bassoon, and especially striking was the effective use of Suzie Templeton's 2006 post-Soviet ultra-realist animation. The timeless tale of a boy in the wild, subject to frights and bullying in spite or perhaps because it so well provides an allegory for both the interior and exterior reality of life in Stalin's Soviet Union of the 1930s.
This visual rendition provides a fitting environmentalist update for our era of climate change, Peter protects the wolf as a circus attraction because the duck, swallowed whole, can still be heard inside. A fitting afternoon performance, before the HK Sinfonietta moved on to give the first symphonic orchestral performance at the new Xiqu Centre in the rapidly developing West Kowloon Cultural District in May.
Copyright © 13 May 2021
Adam J Sacks,
Hong Kong, China