The concert started with one of my favourite piano concertos. On stage is a giant, Yefim Bronfman. But who would have imagined sounds so delicate could emanate from his huge fingers. Not only did he deliver power, he delivered sensitivity and musicality. He played for us Brahm's Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor in Maestoso, Adagio and Rondo in Allegro non troppo. Its first movement was originally conceived as a symphony,hence the piano only entered after a fairly powerful and long introduction with themes about his beloved mentor Schumann. Everybody knew about Brahms' romantic ties with Schumann's wife, Clara Schumann. In the second movement, we got a musical rendition of Brahms's image of her. it was as beautiful as his lover. He poured his heart into it. In the final movement, Brahms struck out on his own. And what a conclusion! I was so afraid before the piece that the sound of the orchestra might somehow overshadow and drown out the quieter piano solo passages. But our conductor van Zweden made herculean efforts to restrain himself. The balance was near perfect. It's the first time I heard Yefim Bronfman live. Bronfman is a first class Russian pianist who won the Avery Fisher Prize in 1991 and who has played with the best orchestras around the world. Although one of my friends said Bronfman could have done a little more with his tone colors, but I don't agree. I think each pianist should be allowed a certain freedom in the way he/she interprets the music. Not everyone has to play like a Richter, a Horowitz, a Pollini, a Michelangeli or a Pires. As encore, he played a beautifully controlled Bach (?) piece.
After the intermission, we had a completely different piece from that doyen of late romanticism Richard Wagner: the Prelude and Liebestod of his then quite revolutionary dramatic opera: Tristan und Isolde, about some regal revenge and romances in Celtic Cornwall. As in so many of such romantic dramas, the love and eventual death of the hero and heroine provided ample scope for lots of ups and downs and changes of tempo and moods. I like particularly its sombre and atmospheric opening. I noticed to my surprise that certain passages sounded as if it could have been lifted straight out from some motifs or other from some of Mahler's symphonies!
The final piece of the evening was another Wagner like piece: Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier Suite, a romantic drama about a quartet of lovers, twisted betrayals, impossible entanglements and final triumph of one of the amorous pairs with various instruments and motifs "representing" different characters in this quartet of human emotions. It's a well chosen closing piece because it ended in a very boisterous and festive Waltz which matches excellently the strong opening of Brahms 's first piano concerto. It's so heartening to see the constant evolution of the HKPO into a better and better orchestra. I went away a happy man.