200810211247Another underrated piece which deserve attention..

On the night of 2nd February 2008, I attended a HKPO concert featuring guitarist Yang Xuefei playing Rodrigo's Guitar Concerto accompanied by HKPO under the baton of Edo De Waart, Beethoven Symphony No.4 and an unfamilair piece which I have never heard: Respighi Suite in G for Organ and Strings.

I felt a bit disappointed of Ms. Yang's performance, neither because of her incompetence nor the orchestra pace, indeed EDW and HKPO rendered us a mellifluous sound with steady pace and sonority richness and Ms Yang played with vigour, sentiment and fantasy, but the conglomerate effect could not touch me at all, I wonder whether their reading are unduly played by book or the sonic deficiency of Cultural Centre (my seat was good enough at the 6th row direct front of upper stall).....

EDW and HKPO also played the Beethoven Symphony No.4 with slightly faster pace than I prefer, my benchmark always relies upon that legendary live account played by Bavaria Radio State Ochestra under the baton of maestro Carlos Kleiber (ORFEO). EDW did give the music timeto breathe and to be heard, however another kind of "played by book" reading which demonstrate how the unflustered pulse was conveyed to the audience without joyfulness nor rubato, a missing rhythm that could lift the piece more vivid and songful!

The lively opening prelude (1st movement) of Suite in G for Organ and Strings composed by Respighi recalls me the sound of Bach Toccata or Baroque style whose influence extends the throughout the entire piece. The mood was in Baroque and Concerto Grossi akin to Vivaldi and Monteverdi. The succeeding aria (2nd movement)was opened by Organ and remained as background sound while the strings expounded a richly expressive melody, its yearning melody was indeed a heartfelt creation of Respighi as if Bach' Air on the G String. A lilting and celestial Pastroale (3rd movement)sounded with its echo effect with ethereal violins and solemn chorale-like intervention from the organ, a showpiece dialogue between organ and strings, I was overwhelmed to hear such melancholic beauty at cultural hall first time ever!! An Organist Vincent Dubois played a magnificent sound which was a rare live experience, the organ bass was extended, majestic, seamlessly smooth and endearing down to 40hz at least! better than most of the domestic reproduction at home. The finale movement "Cantico" was infused with solemn, sturdy and masculine in its outer section, this movement opens with a powerful chorale theme from the organ and follows with a fugue-like string, tranquil and introspective at its center, brings the work to a resonant and imposing conclusion with opulent harmonies and luxuriant scoring, I opined the last movement as a hommage to JS Bach whom was admired by Respighi most.

After the concert, the accompanied concert-goers sitting next to me agreed unanimously that this piece is largely underrated and what the most absurd fact is that this piece has never been previously recorded and ignored by most mega-size record companies (including Naxos and Brilliant Classics), I however found a latest issue by CALA to revisit this underrated piece, played by Philharmonia Orchestra under the baton of Geoffrey Simon and keyboard player Leslie Pearson, the recording quality is lifelike and stunning among DSD issues. A musically engaging piece but also applicable for audiophile testing purpose!

A piece which welcome more attention!


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