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2014年3月22日 星期六

The Lucerne Festival Strings--a Chamber Orchestra with a difference

I have been to I don't how many concerts in my life. Occasionally, I would see the conductor and a pianist/violinist or a singer give a light peck on the cheeks in a polite embrace but never have I seen all neighboring players and the leader of the orchestra doing the same to each leader of each section of the orchestra. I saw that for the first time last night. I saw the Lucerne Festival Strings ("LFS")  in action at the City Hall.

1956 saw the birth of this little chamber orchestra, founded by  Wolfgang Schneiderhan and Rudolf Baumgartner in Switzerland (who remained its artistic director until 1988 when Achim Fiedler took over but from 2012 , it's led by Daniel Dodds)  and has since become one of the leading chamber orchestras in the world and been touring the Americas, South Africa, Turkey and other European cities since the early 2000's. It's characterized by one overriding principle: dialogue, not only between the past and the present, between baroque and contemporary  but also between the leaders of a section and its members and between the members with each other amongst themselves. When they play, they don't just look at the "conductor/leader" ( they don't have a non-playing conductor), they look at and listen to whoever is playing opposite and around them. As a result they play with a kind of rapport with each other that's rarely seen. And it shows in the sound they create, not alone but together, as a seamless ensemble. One actually "hears" such impeccable rapport which generates a joy all too visible in the eyes and faces of its players whilst each is playing their own instrument and which somehow increases also the joy I experienced in listening to them. I understand that they have done more than 100 works and many composers have chosen to have their work premiered by the group like those of Frank Martin, Bohuslav Martinu, Sándor Veress, Iannis Xenakis, Krzysztof Penderecki, Herbert Willi, Milko Kelemen and Peter Ruzicka  etc. works commissioned by the LFS and their artistic directors.


Last night, their second and final concert, they played for us Joseph Suk"s Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale St. Wenceslas Op 35a, Arthur Honegger's Préleude, Arioso et Fughette sur le nom de Bach and two popular Bach's Violin Concertos: the A mnior BWV 1041 and the E BWV 1042 and officially finished with Dvorák's Serenade in E for Strings, Op 22. They were obviously quite happy with our responses. They gave us three encores including one short piece by Ravel and two short pieces by Mozart.


Suk's Meditation is a very simple chorale embodying a prayer to the St. Wenceslas , a 10th century Czech national patron saint who died a martyr: "Save us and future generation from perishing" written by Suk shortly after WWI broke out in 1914. One can hear the sense of anxiety and the longing for peace very clearly in this piece.

 

Bach's Violin Concerto in A minor and the second in E are amongst the most popular that Bach has written for the violin hardly need any introduction. The LFS played the two pieces really as a chamber ensemble with a very intimate sound, almost meditative and with much less the kind of sparkle one come to associate with these two works, the kind one hears eg.  in  Fabio Biondi's treatment of the string sound.

 

Honegger's piece is a piece seldom heard in Hong Kong. It's a piece written in 1932 in 3 movements  each of which imitates a different form perfected by Bach. There's a secret code in the piece: the keys Bb-A-C-B in the prelude which are supposed to be the 4 letters in Bach's name. It's a simple piece with plenty of repetitive phrasing with the basic motifs treated somewhat differently in each of the three movements in the relevant musical form.

 

Dvorak's Serenade in E for Strings is a piece for easy listening: very pastoral, peaceful, very smooth and melodious  with broad flowing and light hearted rhythms and seem to speak of a time which obviously was much happier than the times in which Honegger wrote his piece. It was a piece written whilst Dvorak was still quite young. Is that why Dodds chose to end his programme for his youngish group with this piece, so we may remember his group always with peace and pleasure?