Friday, 4 November 2011

The Joy of Music Festival 2011: Chamber Gala Concert

Every three years, The Joy of Music Festival merges with the Hong Kong International Piano Competition for a mega-musical extravaganza. The jurors of the competition, themselves pianists of great repute, stay back to perform chamber music and concertos. The Chamber Music Gala on Monday 1 November featured Pascal Rogé and Cristina Ortiz with the string quartet, formed by members of the London Chamber Orchestra.

The quartet led by Andrew Haveron opened Joaquin Turina's Bullfighter's Prayer, a single-movement work of Spanish flavour tinged with French impressionist shades. It also played Haveron's transcription of the Blues from Ravel's Violin Sonata. Much in the spirit of the scherzos from Ravel and Debussy's string quartets, the violin part was generously shared with second violinist Magnus Johnston and violist Louise Williams, and Pierre Doumenge was the rock steady cellist.

The outrageous looking "Flaming Red" Steinway, which sat forlornly unperformed for the the entire duration of the competition, was eventually played by Pascal Rogé in Ravel's Piano Trio in A minor with Andrew Haveron and Pierre Doumenge. It has a nice and mellow tone, which suited the music well. The performance was one of great passion and care for intimate detail.

The concert concluded with Cristina Ortiz joining the LCO quartet in Cesar Franck's Piano Quintet in F minor. This is the singularly most performed work in The Joy of Music Festival, having been played a grand total of three times (the other two performances were with Pascal Rogé). It nonetheless is a great work, which reveals new insights every time it is heard. Ortiz has recorded it twice (most recently on Naxos), and hearing it live certainly beats any recording however good. Its cyclic form with recurring themes is better grasped, and its tension generated wirh each harrowing turn is also better experienced this way. A memorable concert, as always, but one simply cannot wait for the final Gala Concert with four piano concertos!

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