Reviews, News and Commentary

Christian Li: Boy Wonder and the APO

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Christian Li and the APO

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

Christian Li Plays

Auckland Town Hall

April 21st

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The “Christian Li Plays” concert with the APO was the first concert this year with no restrictions on audience numbers so there was an almost full Auckland Town Hall of eager listeners.

When Christian Li took to the stage it was obvious that he was a diminutive fourteen-year-old and like all teens of that age there was a mixture of the gauche, bewilderment and astonishment to his face and posture.

But as soon as he started playing it was as though this person had been taken over by a 24-year-old. This transformation meant that his every movement and expression seemed to be channelling the  emotional energy and technical brilliance  of a mature  musician.

The  first work he played was Saint-Saëns’ “Introduction and Rondo capriccioso” which  is a showpiece allowing the violinist to display their skills. Li was technically agile producing  warm tones and taut rhythms. Following the musical notations can allow a player to show a certain level of skill but that only takes them so far. Li demonstrated that his understanding of the music meant that he was able to transform the work into something that was truly capricious with sudden changes of mood and style which resulted in an electrifying performance.

Ravel’s Tzigane is also a very difficult piece being a frenetic gypsy tune which also lightly mocks the genre. From the unaccompanied opening Li imbued the work with an exquisite yearning. As the work progressed the tempo increased and Li was involved with some hectic  tussles with the orchestra. At times he appeared trancelike as though taken over by the music while at others time there was an impish playfulness.

The concert had started with Faure’s “Pelléas et Mélisande: Suite”. From the first movements surging romantic solo cello and woodwind which capture the love of Mélisande through to the wistful well-known third movement and onto to the tragic last movement where the  clarinets and flutes sounded a final lament for her, conductor Vincent Hardaker guided the orchestra confidently and stylishly.

After the interval there were two Russian works on the programme Mussorgsky’s “Night on the Bare Mountain” and Borodin’s  “Symphony No2”. With both works the orchestra captured the essence of Russian music of the time with traces of folk and an ever-present nationalism .The Mussorgsky expresses the human experience of exposure to the elements, and the eventual relief as the terror abates with the coming of dawn. This was all dramatically conveyed by the orchestra.

With the Borodin the orchestra was in fine form capturing the heroics of the first movement, the joy of the sprightly second  movement, the ethereal and dramatic third and the energy of the carnivalesque final section.

Next APO Town Hall Concert, May 5th

Conductor Gilbert Varga
Violin Clara-Jumi Kang
Cimbalom Jenő Lisztes

Kodály Háry János: SuiteJenő Lisztes Improvisation for CimbalomJohn Adams Scheherazade.2

Kodály’s operetta tells the heroic adventures of a Hungarian peasant Háry János

Central to the piece is the sound of the cimbalom, the Hungarian zither.

Inspired by the Tales of the 1001 Nights, John Adams riffed on Rimsky- Korsakov in a ‘dramatic symphony’ for violin and orchestra about ‘a Scheherazade in our own time’, ending with ‘escape, flight, and sanctuary’ from the barbaric men subjugating her.

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s