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2014年11月14日 星期五

An incurable Romantic: Brahms at the Cultural Centre (無藥可救的浪漫主義者:文化中心內的勃拉姆斯)

Brahms may not be every one's favourite. He is a tortuous soul who has the misfortune of falling in love with the wife of his patron and mentor Robert Schumann, the lovely and talented Clara Schumann. He is much influenced by the music of Beethoven perhaps for that reason, hesitated in producing his first Symphony, something which took him some 15 years, which some say may be considered Beethoven's 10th because of inter alia, his bold use of timpani in the opening movement to announce the power of fate and the constant alternation of tenderness and ferocity in his music. Whatever the truth may be, that brought me to the Cultural Centre for a program which originally was supposed to be conducted by Maazel, who died shortly before his arrival and is now done by our former chief conductor of the HKPO, Atherton.

The evening started off with Brahms' Academic Fesitval Overture, a work which combines 4 student songs into one:  Wir Hatten gebauet ein Sttattliches Haus, Der Landvesvater, Was kommt von der Höh and Gaudeamus igitur , something he did as a gesture of thanks to the University of Breslau who conferred on him an honorable Ph D degree for his contribution to music. It's a suitably festive piece with moments of the academic pomp and ceremonious solemnity thrown in. I couldn't help feeling that perhaps the performance of this first piece might  have been sequed rather more smoothly. Maybe the orchestra was not yet in form?


It was a completely different story with Brahm's No. 4. The orchestra displayed true unity although again, there could have been slightly more dynamic contrast between the powerful and the quieter passages, which sounded rather louder than was really necessary but..... It was a work of power, though not without moments of pathos and melancholy. It's said that when he wrote it, Brahms was much affected by his reading of the Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex  and thus at times, the piece is filled with a certain reflective mood. The the first and last movements seem well tied together. I love the second movement: so bright, cheerful and warm. The third has a certain festive spirit to it whilst the final movement is a real masterpiece: magnificent and powerful. It's his last.

After the intermission, it became the Brahm's No.1. In this work, we already see what he could have become: all the elements of the last are there: his brooding mood, moments of lyricism and the struggles deep within his soul represented by powerful motives which constantly fight for dominance and never quite succeeding until the glorious final  movement whose power was such that it simply couldn't stop when it reached the peak of its final explosion but had to simmer down by several waves of energy each one weaker than the last. The HKPO finally came into its own. Both it and Atherton fully deserve our long and enthusiastic aplauses.
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