Two pieces render vibrant and expressive images
Certain music suggests images or situations. Other music gives us the freedom to navigate through the notes with no apparent implications. Either approach can be very effective. It is just a matter of musicianship.
Feature the Ahn Trio
In concert: 4 p.m. today
Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Tickets: $22 to $73
Call: 792-2000 or Ticketmaster, (877) 750-4400
On Friday evening the Honolulu Symphony, led by Samuel Wong and featuring the Ahn Trio, gave us a taste of both approaches.
Although in different ways, Berlioz's "King Lear Overture" (1831) and Bunch's "Hardware Concerto" (2003) belong to the first category of music. Berlioz's piece refers to Shakespeare's play, Bunch's work, to American popular cultures.
In "King Lear," if we follow the images, we can detect the king and Cordelia in two contrasting themes. The first is presented by the strong sounds of cellos and basses and developed throughout the overture. The second, performed by the oboe, is a tender and moving melody. The lower strings section and J. S. Janusch rendered the effects with expressiveness.
The "Hardware Concerto" did not allude to characters but to specific musical contexts. Kenji Bunch introduced his work as a compound of absorbed music: funk, hip-hop and Bollywood (contemporary Indian film music). Two drummers and the amplified trio of electronic keyboard or piano, cello and violin form a band, while the orchestra underlines volume and light harmonies.
The dynamic Ahn Trio reflected the work's spirit with energetic brilliance. Certain Bollywoodian orchestral interjections were simply delicious. The rhythms were captivating and the audience could not refrain from clapping between movements. The slow movement featured the Ahn sisters' talent: They can flawlessly and magically move the music among their instruments. Finally, the third movement took us back to a '70s funk. No explicit reference to the music of "Shaft" here, but for a moment I thought the suave New York detective would pop on stage.
After this easy-listening piece, the magnitude of Dvorák's Sixth Symphony (1880) worried some. No explicit references. But Wong and the symphony performed with tremendous energy and brilliance. The conductor's confidence and plasticity and his communication with the orchestra made me think of a glove perfectly fitting a hand. Conducting without score, he delivered the quintessential characteristics of a romantic symphony: power, balance and abundant melodic material.
Czech folk-like elements and idiomatic ingredients permeate Dvorák's music. The third movement, "Furiant" (a Czech couple-dance), and the finale moved at great speed, without compromising the phrasing. The orchestra had a charming pastoral sound with Susan McGinn's flute, Erica Peel's piccolo, Jason Sudduth's French horn and Paul Barret's bassoon.
The evening ended with the perfect encore, Dvorák's "Slavonic Dance," making us regret that the concert was over.
Valeria Wenderoth has a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she also teaches.