Last Saturday's concert at the HK Cultural Centre was unlike any other. It's a concert to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Radio 4 of RTHK.
To commemorate this special occasion, we were treated to a revised version of a piece of music written some 10 years ago by local composer Richard Tsang for the 30th anniversary of the same radio station: viz. "Overture FM" now re-entitled "Commentaries" . It's a piece intended to highlight the fact that it's a radio station broadcasting "classical music" in two languages English and Chinese and thus involves both speech and music. It's composed in "contemporary" style: plenty of contrasts, conterpointing English and Chinese recitation of certain poem-like words about time, change, identity, sensations, existence and between the sound of words and the sound of music, a rather conceptual type of music, more intellectual than purely "musical", playing variation or cutting in with new sounds upon the theme song of Radio 4 which Tsang composed in the 1980s. Perhaps for that reason, it's called "Commentaries"?
Here are some of the "commentaries": " And I AM! Life gives me my senses .And senses allow the ‘I’ to be To be part of everything. And everything part of me. The World is without. The World is within. I am the NOW. I am the NEXT MOMENT. And I am what I’ve been. I see I hear. I feel. And I AM! I laugh I crave. I give. And I AM! All things equal. Yet nothing’s the same. Difference is the source. Difference is the Game. Differences enable CHANGE. Changes define TIME. And TIME defines EXISTENCE.(But what if TIME doesn’t really exist?)" It sounded almost as if it could have been lifted from some Nietzschean style philosophic aphorisms written by a Heidegger. Surely we don't need such in music! An interesting use of sound but hardly any integration between the various sonic modes, more like an experiment in sound than a really "completed" work. Perhaps, the composer thought that like reality, the music should be "open" ended instead of having any static, stable form, always open to post-modern "play"? I really have no idea what he intended to do. But there's something that I do know. In many parts, the orchestra sound completely drowned out the voices of the two narrators. Perhaps the composer's intention might be to to let us know that after all, it's the music which should predominate in a radio station about "music", not verbal "commentaries"? Maybe. Maybe not.
Our next piece of music is even more unusual. It's another piece I heard for the first time:Joseph Schwanter's Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra (1943), a very dynamic piece in which various kinds of drums, bongos, crotals, cymbals, xylophones, metal bells capable of playing different tones, kettle drums, timpanis are played to great effect, a completely ear-opening experience, the percussion soloist Li Biao sometimes playing alone and sometimes playing in co-operation with our usual HKPO percussionists, who came out out in full force. Li Biao seems a most versatile percussionist, playing different tonal shades, at different speeds, different rhythms, different degrees of force and sometimes even with silence, a true magician in percussion. A most exhilarating performance.
After the intermission, we got a rather more familiar piece Anton Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 which hardly needs any introduction. As conductor we had the renowned Lawrence Foster who had led orchestras Germany, France, Spain and East Europe. He gave us an unforgettable Dvorak No. 9. A very alive and vivid performance of this piece about the new world of locomotives, huge valleys and enormous plains, Red Indians and Negros, full of energy, power and hope. A most fitting conclusion to a night of wonderful music.