2012年10月31日 星期三

A Bitter Victory

My second HKPO concert this season last week is as unforgettable as the first. It was unforgettable because it was one of the shortest programmes ever. only one piece of music for each half of the usual two sessions. We had two guests this time: a pianist and a conductor. The pianist was Melvyn Tan, a young Singaporean who is an expert on the forte piano and pre-Romantic music and has performed worldwide on both that instrument and the modern piano.  The conductor was a tall balding young man whose very energetic motions made his conducting bit stiff: Lawrence Renes, a Dutch conductor who assisted our previous musical director Edo de Waart in 1994-1996 at the Dutch Radio Orchestra and is now musical director of the Royal Swedish Opera.

Our first piece that evening was a piano concerto by Mozart in which he wrote in parts for the clarinet, his Piano Concerto Concerto No. 22. This has been described by one music scholar as Mozart's "queenliest" piano concerto and he is right. It does have a certain grandeur about it and is one of the longest piano concertos Mozart wrote. It started out magnificently with strings, followed by wind before the piano enters. The second movement is a bit sad with certain heavy rhythm from the bass but in the third, Mozart came to himself again: quick, lively, humorous, and joyful. I like that movement best. However, I find Tan's performance a little too restrained. I could not find Mozart's soul in his play. I was not alone in thinking so. My concerto companions agreed with me too.

The second piece of the evening was a completely different piece: it was from 20th century Russia, not 18th century Austria. It was Shastakovich's Symphony No. 7 in C major, a symphony completed in December, 1941 in memory of the resistance of the people city of Leningrad (Moscow) during the 900-day siege of the city by the German army during the second World War. It was Shastakovich lengthiest symphony, almost two hours ! In the extremely long first movement of the symphony (nearly half an hour), we can feel the grimness of war and the toll it took on the vast expanses of a Russian winter as German soldiers advanced to the tune of a fateful march and as the Russian soldiers retreated, quietly, sadly but not completely without hope as the same motif was repeated successively by different wind instruments and then the full orchestra and gradually building up in pitch and volume. The second movement in moderato, the shortest was a bit lighter and more lively whilst the slightly longer third in adagio, was supposed to portray the city of Leningrad with its Neva riverbank, its streets and its people in quiet twilight. The final movement in allegro non troppo also began quietly but gradually built up into frenzy with repetitions of many previous motifs of  the first movement. Renes led the HKPO to a magnificent finale of this grim piece. A really great performance !

2012年10月27日 星期六

Catching up on my concerts.

I do not know why, music seems to have a mysterious ability to move the human soul in a way that no other form of human art can. It seems to have the ability to turn the key on an invisible lock hidden deep somewhere within the niches of our unbelievably intricate neural circuits and in a trace let fly all our fears, despair, hopes and exhilaration and all other kinds of moods in between. Nowhere has this truth become more blindingly obvious to me than when I attended a concert of the HKPO on 29th September, 2012. The resonances are still with me even as I write.

The program that evening was quite varied. First we had a piece completely new to me. It was composed by an extremely talented young American-born Chinese Conrad Tao who had been giving piano concerts since age 4 and is now doing a joint program by Columbia University and Juillard School in New York where he is learning the violin. He wrote a piece called Pangu, a Chinese myth about the creation of our universe. According to this myth, the earth began with the hatching of an egg which took some 18,000 years after which another 18,000 years was required to separate light from darkness, the earth from the sky. Our universe is the literal embodiment of Pangu: his eyes are the sun and moon, his breath the wind, his voice the thunder and his body is our mountains and valleys. It was a very innovative piece and unlike some of the other "contemporary" composition, not completely devoid of melodic motifs which are repeated from time to time. There is some very original use of percussions to create the moods and rhythms of creation. Even my usual concert companions whose taste cannot be described as "universal" like it!

The second piece was a by now very "classic" work done by Chan Gang and Ho Yim Ho in the early days of the new China, the one movement Butterfly Lovers violin Concerto. What surprised me was the way it was performed by Lin Neng, another rising star from the PRC who came from Sichuan and has since won a number of important international prizes, including the Paganini prize for violin playing. I like the way he handled the violin, always with restraint and sensitivity and yet perfectly natural and unforced, a bit like Nathan Milstein. I like in particular the way he uses the bow to give some almost erhu like sound of Chinese strings which makes the piece peculiarly Chinese in feel.

The last piece of the evening was a completely different matter again. It was Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, written at a time when Beethoven has lost the greater part of his hearing. It was in a way a very rousing piece with a very insistent first movement which gives the mood to the entire symphony, a second movement which is very soft, slightly grim and yet calm and not completely hopeless, with a very Slavic rhythm and feel. Its third movement is something different again. There is a certain lightness which quickly developed into something rather more forceful. We can actually feel Beethoven's stubborn will to life and to create. Then in the final movement, we find Beethoven bursting forth in his strident march towards the climax. The HKPO under Jaap van Zweden gave an excellent performance.  As expected, it drew a very well deserved ecstatic applause from all and sundry. I'm so glad I didn't miss the concert. It was an unforgettable experience.   

2012年10月26日 星期五

Books or Sex?

In the old days, one of the favourite ploys employed by parents to encourage us to study is the old saw that in books, we'll find both gold and breathless beauty. But there may well be some other good reasons why books are better than sex. Here're 10:

1.  You can usually find someone to do it with.

2. If you get tired, you can stop, save your place and pick up where  you left off.

3. You can finish early with-out feelings of guilt or shame.

4. When you open a book, you don't have to worry about who else has opened it.

5. A little coffee and you can do it all night.

6. If you don't finish a chapter you won't gain a reputation as a "book teaser."

7. You can do it, eat and watch TV all at the same time.

8. You don't get embarrassed if your parents interrupt you in the middle.

9. You don't have to put your beer down to do it.

10. If you aren't sure what you're doing, you can always ask your friends for help!

Do you bookworms have any other rationalizations to justify your neglect of that fun activity?

2012年10月24日 星期三

Tiger Head

Whilst going from Pak Mong Village (白芒) to Mui Wo (梅窩), I often saw a sign saying that it goes to Tiger Head (老虎頭) but I never bothered to find out where that is. Yesterday, I changed my mind. And I am glad I did. It started out well. Before leaving for my destination, I stopped by Pak Mong Village to have a bowl of noodles. Not only did I get my ham and egg noodles, the store owner-chef threw in, without being asked, some small mussels he got from the sea nearby and some garlic chives (韭菜) his wife had just got from the fields and offered me one of his freshly cut bananas as dessert at no extra charge! The noodle and the banana were both delicious. I was so lucky. There I was accosted by a villager who had been a photographer who had been to Palau to do deep sea underwater diving and photography and had been doing photography for more than 3 decades. He said that now that he had suffered an injury, he had to give up but he still keeps his Hasellblad.

This is the path leading off to Tiger Head mid-way from Pak Mong Village to Mui Wo 

On the way, I passed by a golf course

One of the valleys I passed through

I was on my way

The grass was tall on both sides of the path

At first I thought this was the head of the "tiger". It wasn't.

A lone rock

Doesn't it look like one of those 19th century English landscape paintings?

I like the trees on the slopes

On this split rock, I found a white Caucasian taking photos of the valley by the automatic continuous shooting mode. I didn't ask him why.

Mother and child?

In the distance, the rocks look like some kind of boat?

Another valley I passed through

Soon I could see a corner of the Discovery Bay Reservoir

This is the path skirting the side of the hills I just passed. It was quite an easy walk

A bigger part of the Reservoir could now be seen as I was closer to my destination

The path I walked past.

The distant hills were exactly as the Chinese ink painting master described: the nearer, the darker, the more distant, the lighter.

Look at all those hills I had behind me.

Another view of the path

I like this stretch of the path, so pastoral like

Obviously someone had cut the grass growing along the path not so long ago

From the col of a colline, I could see the village houses above the Discovery Bay Reservoir

I learned later that the "tiger head" is the top of this little lump which separates the two sides of the Discovery Bay

Discovery Bay to the left, the reservoir to the right

The path down looked all dry and the earth cracked up

This is the way down to the Discovery Bay. It was full of loose rocks because it was quite weathered.

Looking back on the path I walked down to the ground

Finally, some paved path.

2012年10月22日 星期一

Up and Away

Nothing to do better than breathing some mountain air in this weather.

The mountain is so high, the climb so strenuous that when one is finally sitting up there admiring the clouds, they seem to look so much more impressive.

Below my feet, Mui Wo on my left !

Cheung Sha at my right

The two together

The hill top is full of rushes

How tall they look?

Here and there, you find some rock outcrops

A sleeping giant?

Better take a snap shot. Where can you take another like this!

Some rocks look really jagged

So this is the Broken Head Camp !

The way down !

So near to the clouds

More clouds twisting and turning in the sky

The huge bird spoken of by Chuang Tzu?

A dragon in the air?

The bird is coming forward

The clouds are always changing. So are we !

2012年10月20日 星期六

Women, women, women

Women are always fascinating to men. No matter how many times men got burnt, they still hanker after those incomprehensible creatures. I sometimes wonder if it's really necessary for God to create hell for menfolks. He's probably already done that the moment he took a bone from Adam's rib cage. Could it be the case that deep down, all men have an irresistible urge for masochism?

1.     The revised Genesis

In the beginning, God created the earth and rested.
Then God created
Man and rested.
Then God created Woman.
Since then, neither God nor
Man has rested.

2.    A 5-Storey Hotel
A group of girlfriends is on vacation and see a 5-story hotel
with a sign that reads, "For Women Only."
Since they are without their
boyfriends and husbands, they decide to go in.
The bouncer, a very
attractive guy, explains to them how it works: "We have 5 floors. Go up
floor by floor, and once you find what you are looking for, you can stay
there. Its easy to decide since each floor has a sign telling you whats
They start going up and on the first floor the sign reads,
"All the men on this floor are short and plain." The friends laugh and
without hesitation move on to the next floor.
The sign on the second
floor reads, "All the men here are short and handsome." Still, this is'nt
good enough, so the friends continue on up.
They reach the third floor
and the sign reads, "All the men here are tall and plain." They still
want to do better, and so, knowing there nare still two floors left,
they continue on up.
On the fourth floor, the sign is perfect. "All the
men here are tall and handsome." The women get all excited and are about
to go in when they realize that there is still one floor left.
Wondering what they would be missing, they head on up to the fifth
On the fifth floor they find a sign that reads, "There are no men
here. This floor was built only to prove that there is no way to please
a woman."

2.     Women's Wedding gown

On the eve of his wedding night, a fresh-faced lad asks his mother, "Mom, why are wedding dresses white?"
The mother looks at her son and replies, "Son, this shows the town that your bride is pure."
The son thanks his mom, and then seeks his father opinion, "Dad, why are wedding dresses white?"
The father looks at his son in surprise and says, "Son, all household appliances come in white."

3.     An Advertisement

A man inserted an advertisement in the classifieds section with the heading "Wife Wanted."
The next day he received a hundred letters saying "You can have mine."

4.  A genie

 A man was walking along a beach and stumbled across an old lamp. He picked it up, rubbed it and out popped a genie.
The genie said "You released me from the lamp,...This is the fourth time this month and I'm getting a little sick of these wishes so you can forget about three. You only get one wish!"
The man sat and thought about it for a while and said, "Ive always wanted to go to Hawaii but I'm scared to fly and I get very seasick.Could you build me a bridge to Hawaii so I can drive over there to visit?"
The genie laughed and said, "That's impossible! Think of the logistics of that! How would the supports ever reach the bottom of the Pacific? Think of how much concrete! How much steel! You're going to have to think of another wish."
The man agreed, and tried to think of a really good wish.
Finally, he said, "Ive been married and divorced four times. My wives always said that I don't care and that I'm insensitive. So, I wish that I could understand women. I want to know how they feel inside and what they're thinking when they give me the silent treatment. I want to figure out why they're crying, know what they really want when they say nothing, and know how to make them truly happy."
The genie paused for a while and said, "How many lanes do you want on that bridge?"

5. Another genie

A man was walking on the beach one day and he found a bottle half buried in the sand.
He decided to open it.
Inside was a genie. The genie said," I will grant you three wishes and three wishes only."
The man thought about his first wish and decided, "I think I want 1 million dollars transferred to a Swiss bank account"
POOF! He got that.
Next he wished for a fiery red Ferrari.
POOF! There was the car sitting in front of him.
He asked for his final wish, " I wish I was irresistible to women."
He turned into a box of chocolates.

    Question: What is a woman ?
    Answer:  A woman is a person who, if she says to a man, "Never mind, I'll do it myself," and he lets her and she gets mad and who, when he says, "Now what are you mad about?" says, "If you don't know I'm not going to tell you."

8.     Doing the Dishes

A young man called his mother and announced excitedly that he had just met the woman of his dreams. "Now what should I do?"
His mother has an idea. "Why don't you send her flowers, and on the card invite her to your apartment for a home cooked meal?"
He thought this was a great strategy.
A week later the woman came to dinner.
His mother called the next day to see how things had gone. " I was humiliated," he groaned. "She insisted on washing the dishes."
 " What's wrong with that?" asked his mother.
 " We hadn't started eating yet."

9.     Punctuations

An English professor wrote the words, "Woman without her man is nothing" on the blackboard and directed his students to punctuate it correctly.
The men wrote: "Woman, without her man, is nothing."
The women wrote: "Woman: Without her, man is nothing."

10.     A Miracle

At a family gathering, a husband began teasing his wife about how she always get her way.
"Honey," she said to her husband, "when I get my way, that's a compromise."
"What is it when I get my way?" he was quick to ask.
 She replied, "That's a miracle!"

11.     Smart women

How do you know when a woman is about to say something smart?
She starts her sentence with "A man once told me..."

12.    Silence

I haven't spoken to my wife for 18 months! I don't like to interrupt her.

13.     A scientific finding

Overheard at a bar.
A: John, do you know that scientists have discovered a food that diminishes a woman's sex drive by up to 90%.
John: Oh, that's interesting. What's that?
A: Wedding cakes.

14.  Clothes

Shortly after the birth of their second child, her husband offered to
take her shopping for a new dress.
He endured more than two hours of
listening to her complaints about which figure flaw each dress
As she emerged from the dressing room, having tried on the
last selection, she asked for her husbands opinion. By this time, he had
learned just the right things to say. "It's perfect!" he exclaimed. "It
makes your waist look smaller, your legs look longer and slenderizes
your hips."
Just then, another voice from the next dressing room piped up. "If
there's a dress here that will do all that, I'll take ten!"

15.    Q & A on Women or Wine

        Q: Which is easier for a man to leave: the women or the Wine
        A:  It depends on the age.

16.    Q & A on women's looks
         Q:  Why do women pay more attention to their appearance than to improving
their minds?
         A:   Because most men are stupid, but few are blind.

17.   Some simple Logic

        Smart man + Smart Woman = Romance
        Smart Man + Dumb Woman = Pregnancy
Man + Smart Woman = Affair
        Dumb Man + Dumb Woman = Marriage

Have a fun weekend !

2012年10月19日 星期五

Exploring Space at Taikoo Place

I've been to Taikoo Place in Quarry Bay only once or twice in the past in connection with my work but never at night. Some time ago, there was a photo exhibition by a famous Japanese photographer. So I took the opportunity to give it a good look over and came upon some quite unexpected images. So here they are, in no particular order

A casual glance at a nearby restaurant.

A nearby Japanese restaurant

A golden dragon winding its way towards light

The lift lobby through a window pane

A light path towards two red apples

Floor reflections

More floor reflections

Reflections of the world outside

Reflections on window pane

A chink under the ceiling

More ceiling

Even more ceiling

Inside and out

Outside and in

Under and out

Up and down

Lines and spots

Lines and angles

Curves and curves

spots and bellows

Real and unreal

Upside down

Split world

Lights down and gliding

Superior and inferior

reaching up

Bound for work, summer

Bound for work, winter

Also bound for work, winter

Bound for the supermarket?

Lifebuoy for corporate man

Prim and proper

All subject to the tyranny of the documents ninjas

World in blue

World in red

World in purple

World of shadows

waves or people?

Virtual leaves

More virtual leaves

Uneven world

Regular world