Group founded by Pierre Boulez make Hong Kong debut with concert of seven contrasting works spanning over a century, including one inspired by 2015 axing of four Mid-Levels banyan trees
The Paris-based Ensemble Intercontemporain, purveyors of fine European modernism for more than four decades, finally made it to Hong Kong on Sunday evening at the City Hall Concert Hall. Better late than never, though their long-delayed debut resulted in a backlog of more than a century of sonic exploration packed into an extensive two-and-a-half-hour programme.
Appearing under the banner of the New Vision Arts Festival, the Ensemble led with the “new”, with most of the music before intermission hailing from the 21st century.
Charles Kwong’s Lachrymae, the ink barely dry from its premiere in last summer’s soundSCAPE Festival in Tuscany, was both the most recent work and the winner of the Ensemble’s “call for scores” initiative among Hong Kong composers.
Lachrymae, as Kwong noted in an elaborate programme description, was inspired by the chopping down in 2015 of four mature banyan trees in Bonham Road, Mid-Levels, that the government considered a threat to public safety. Shimmering colours unfolded from a six-piece ensemble. Extended harmonies and melodic fragments pointed one direction, then veered in another. Did this signify twisting roots and branches? A listener would be hard pressed for a definite answer, though it was easy enough to fit the pictorial sounds to a narrative of one’s own.
Charles Kwong, a Hong Kong composer, was commissioned to write a piece for the sinfonietta, titled //beforedark.hk.cn/ This was a textural piece, focusing on colour rather than melody. Kwong created delicate, shifting impressions of a Hong Kong landscape from dusk to dark.
After an initial percussion flurry, twilight was evoked with eerie string harmonics and expressive cello glissandos. The flutes made a whispery chatter and the basses rustled with indefinite pitch tremolos, overlaid with sprinklings of harp chords, dreamy celeste runs and muted brass outbursts, evolving into more solemn string passages. The orchestra controlled the fluctuating balances and the rhythm was crisply coordinated.
Modern classical musicians have access to a whole new generation of potential enthusiasts thanks to social media, and they should take advantage of its power, a local composer says.
Hong Kong-born composer Charles Kwong Chin-wai, whose latest opus will premiere tonight when it is performed by the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, was upbeat about the future of new music in the city, where he said more people were willing to listen to unfamiliar tones.