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2014年11月29日 星期六

Murray Perahia & St. Martin in the Fields in HK (梅理.柏拉雅與聖馬田樂團在港)

If you were to tell others that you are a classical music fan and yet have never heard St Martin in the Fields, I'm quite sure that you couldn't have been one for very long. This wonderful orchestra has already been around from the earliest moment when I started to listen to serious music in the early 60s. I still remember how shocked I was when I first listened to their vinyl disc playing Vivaldi's Four Seasons through a tube amplifier and a pair of JBL horn speakers: though they are many, they play as if they were just one huge complex string instrument. Recently they came to Hong Kong as part of a 10 city Asian Tour, led by famous pianist, arranger and conductor Murray Perahia who, like the orchestra, has made so many recordings of excellent music that it's would be well nigh impossible to count them.

They gave two concerts: one on 1st and another on the 2nd November, 2014. I went to their first. They started with a composition by Mendelsohhn's (1809-1847) Sinfonia No. 7 in D minor, one of the 11 string symphonies the precocious teenager wrote between 12 and 14. It has a very energetic, rhythmic and joyful first movement, a rather easy and leisurely second movement  lightly touched by a tinge of sadness. It's third movement reverted to the lively rhythms and energy of first with a theme which was first played as the main theme which was subsequently mimicked stealthily as if by a naughty child trying to make fun of the adult before being resumed by the adults with more variations. The final movement  in Allegro molto brings everything to a dramatic close with all the necessary contrapuntal contrasts.





The concert continued with a popular piece, Mozart's(1756-1791) Piano Concerto No.21 in C, K 467 in Allegro maestro, Andante and Allegro vivace assai, written quite late in his life in 1785, just 6 years before he died but with no less joy and optimism and that bubbling vitality in his music which is so unique to Mozart but one already senses in that music a slight but unmistakeable feeling that somehow such joy could never last forever. It begins a with a long introduction by the orchestra and then the piano enters to repeat softly with delight the main theme with its lilting rhythm with the orchestra supplying a solid and contrasting background whilst the piano jumps around with its dance like movement alternating with quieter, more contemplative and more forceful passages. The starting theme of the second movement must have been one of the most often heard themes amongst all of Mozart's composition. Yet one cannot help feeling a certain a very well hidden sadness amidst that serenely beautiful melody. In the third movement, Mozart pretended that he never really had that foreboding by making the piano play even more energetically, as if through such vigor he could somehow mask and overcome that sneaking sense of sadness already creeping up like a ghost at the margin of his consciousness.



Then we had another very popular piece by that undisputed emperor of the baroque: Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-17590): his Keyboard Concerto No, 7 in G Minor which was originally adapted for the harpischord and string from his Violin Concerto in A Minor BWV 1041. It's very different from Mozart: so full of balance, symmetry, regularity and an imperturbable sense of joy and in the second movement so full of a certain solemn dignity. It's difficult to imagine that Bach could have written such music without believing with all his his heart, his mind and his soul in an eternal and benevolent God who would provide for man. The third movement jumps in with joy with the piano playing with almost complete abandon as the notes run over the keyboard with quick and light hearted glee right up to the end.



After the intermission, we had a very light hearted piece, Joseph Hayn's (1732-1809)  Symphony No. 94 in G, more popularly known as the "Surprise Symphony", a piece I first heard years ago when I was still in middle School with which I felt an instinctual rapport. I still remember how my first music teacher told me that Haydn was the "father" of the modern symphony. According to the programme notes, this piece was his 6th offer to the London audience when he first visited the country in March 1792.  Listening to it after so many years, I can feel how different his music is different from that of Bach and other baroque composers: the force and energy of his music and its break from almost mechanical balance of the earlier period. This is one of Haydn's last symphonies, by which time his symphonic form was quite well established. Even Beethoven had a thing or two to learn from him. Yet one still finds in his music the need of restraint like the start of second movement but such balance broken by the abrupt and loud timpani at the end of many of its phrases. Its' theme is repeated many times, sometimes faster, sometimes more broken up, sometimes more forceful, other times much more subdued. Yet no matter how, the roll of the timpani is never far away. The third movement has a delightful melody and begins like a rather formal waltz and there are so many contrasts, with some simple frolicking thrown in as if some country gentlemen were having a party. One can almost see all those men with wigs and tight pants and ladies whose corseted upper bodies with with enormous bell-like dresses held by wires swaying from side to side as they glide over the dance floor. But the rhythm pace quickens and the sound becomes more intense as the symphony draws to its climactic but abrupt close.



Perahia is a truly versatile artist whether he plays baroque or classical, whether as a soloist or a guest conductor of the orchestra which normally plays without any conductor, only a "leader" who is himself also a player. A wonderful concert by an orchestra which lives up to its well deserved reputation.