Overture, Op. 81; Schumann Cello Concerto; Brahms
Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73 | Christian Arming, conductor and
Han-Na Chang, cello
22 and 24 October,
8pm Venue Orpheum Theatre Reviewer
This concert of
works by Brahms and Schumann allowed an opportunity to watch the best
of Vancouver's sartorial offerings. And there could be few events more
civilized than the opportunity to take in a performance by Rostopovich-student
Han-Na Chang, who challenged herself with Schumann's cello concerto in
the first concert of the Accenture Masterwork Diamond Series.
The evening began with Brahms' "Tragic Overture," Op. 81 under
the direction of Christian Arming. Music Director of the Lucerne Theatre,
Chief Conductor of the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, Chief Conductor of
the New Japan Philharmonic, Maestro Arming has obviously accomplished
much in his 31 years. His direction was brisk and efficient. He did not
partake in the repartee that sometimes accompanies Bramwell Tovey's conducting
duties, and allowing a rather quick pace and an end just before 10 o'clock.
Han-Na Chang came on stage wearing a red and pink billowy dress. Looking
something like an fairy tale princess, she lit up the stage filled with
musicians in "traditional concert black." Seated stage front,
she began a lively interpretation of Schumann's Cello Concerto.
At first it wasn't quite clear how this sound was being produced. Was
she using some extraordinary technique to create some counter-resonance
that sounded like the inhaling of a breath and giving her instrument a
kind of organic rhythm? Chang's own deep breathing gave the instrumentation
a different interpretation, turning the cello into a bassoon. Although
rather interesting for the first few moments (one thinks of Glenn Gould's
hum-along mannerism), this technique became increasingly irritating as
the concert on continued, dramatizing the execution and distracting from
the music as she continued.
Equally distracting were were a collection of facial expressions changing
with the harmonies. One couldn't help notice the vast array as she felt
her way through the piece. This was especially apparent in the differences
between moments when she would go blank between her solo duties and then
began anew when she played. The contrast between her perfectly sedate,
almost bored, expressions and the full blown glory of her contorted features
This is, of course, a minor quibble on stage behaviour about what was
absolutely stellar playing. Chang threw herself into the piece and created
a haunting emotionality that could charm to coldest of hearts.
The Brahms Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73 was given a flawless performance,
with the orchestra in complete control over this sprawling masterwork.
One could only be awed by the highly organized machinery executing a difficult
turn under Maestro Arming's refined direction.
© 2005 Kulpreet Sasan