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Applause-winning Concert by Prize-winning Violinist

Hong Kong
Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall, Central
04/09/2009 -  
Antonin Dvorák: Carnival Overture, Op. 92 – Symphony No. 9 in E minor, From the New World, Op. 95
Nicolo Paganini: Violin Concerto No.1 in E-flat major, Op. 6

Mengla Huang (Violin)
Hong Kong Children’s Symphony Orchestra, Wai-hong Yip (Music Director/Conductor), Gabriel Leung (Guest Conductor)

(© Hong Kong Leisure & Cultural Services Department)

Although this was not Mengla Huang’s first concert in Hong Kong, Thursday’s and Friday’s concerts were the first time he played Paganini’s Violin Concerto; the piece brought him the First Prize of the 2002 Paganini International Violin Competition. Therefore, violin aficionados awaited these two concerts with great anticipation, though, unfortunately, most of the attendees were children’s parents and siblings.

Mr. Huang did not disappoint the audience by delivering a technically transcendental version of one of the most demanding showpieces within the violin repertoire. The blistering double stops, glinting high notes, scurrying arpeggios, and technical hurdles in the cadenza and elsewhere were all overcome without stress and concession. The only reservation to this otherwise technically impeccable rendition was his occasional scratchy tone during the double harmonics passages (the second theme of the third movement), which is indeed nearly impossible to play without any flaw and fault. Despite Mr. Huang’s consummate virtuosity, he never compromised every vestige of delicate articulations and exquisite details. Hardly a note went by without Mr. Huang carefully crafting its filigree. But the price he paid was the under-wrapped sparkles and understated fervent. Paganini’s aria-like slow movement was also sung with a rather plain-spoken voice from his Maggini violin. The collaboration between the soloist and the orchestra sounded loose, with some flubbed orchestral entrances in the second and third movements.

Mr. Huang delivered another Paganini’s dazzling showpiece as his encore – Introduction and Variations Op. 38. Again, the technical challenges were dispatched with aplomb and sublimated beneath a convincing eloquence, even when Mr. Huang romped through it at a whirlwind pace. In comparison to his Concerto, this solo piece seemed more hard-edged and ebullient.

Unlike the slack accompaniment in Paganini’s Concerto, the Hong Kong Children’s Symphony Orchestra showed tremendous discipline and stunning precision in the two works by Dvorák. The woodwinds were particularly outstanding, with the second movement of the New World Symphony being warmly and intimately rendered. The strings were played in excellent unity and the brasses were carefully controlled. However, what seemed most problematic was their balance – the percussion (the guiltiest part throughout) and the brass were frequently overwhelming with the top melodies in the violin being mercilessly engulfed. What was missing in these children (and in most of the young musicians) was the awareness and mastering of musicality, the element that moves audience’s affection.

Nonetheless, it was delightful to witness so many young musicians gathered to play music with discipline and passion.

Danny Kim-Nam Hui



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