Friday, November 14, 2008
Last night I went to a concert performed by The Orchestra of the 18th Century at the National Center for the Performing Arts, better known as the Egg.
The Orchestra is made up of a group of musicians who specialize in 18th and early 19th century music.
Many play with period instruments or contemporary copies so that they can perform pieces as closely as they can to recreate the same sounds and styles of the late baroque era. Two musicians had brass instruments that looked like the precursor to the trumpet or trombone without the piston valves, and there were french horns with beautiful designs on the inside of the flared bell.
And they tried to re-enact the salon-style concert in the quasi intimate setting of the concert hall in the grand and gigantic egg that has seats with almost no leg room.
Several announcements were made in Chinese telling people to turn off cellphones, not to use cameras or talk during the concert. And overall the audience wasn't too bad compared to previous concerts I've attended. A few people tried to take pictures from their cellphones, but staff quickly spotted them and shot red laser beams at them which was a good preventative measure.
However, the security checks ahead of time were excessive, with patrons not even being allowed to bring in drinks and cameras had to be checked-in.
In the end though, it was a pleasant concert that started off with Mozart's Symphony No. 29 in A major, K201. The conductor was also the lead violinist, who conducted with his bow whenever he had the chance.
Then keyboardist Kristian Bezuidenhout came out and sat at the clavichord which was in the middle of the stage surrounded by the musicians. He's a portly man, but with dainty fingers.
The next piece, Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 in d minor, KV466 was a delight and I could imagine Wolfgang himself sitting at the keyboard and playing this piece. As soon as the musicians began to play, Bezuidenhout immediately submersed himself, swaying or getting emotional about the music which at times looked comical, but he didn't seem to care.
Nevertheless, his technical skills were fantastic with just the right touch. I quickly realized the clavichord wasn't as loud as a piano which probably dawned on others so they all had to keep quiet.
After several rounds of clapping, there was an intermission, but signage isn't very good and we literally went in circles trying to find the washroom. And soon afterwards the 15-minute break was over and not a drop of drink to be had, again because it was inconveniently far away.
Alas, the last piece was Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major. I wasn't too familiar with this music, but seemed like it was one of the composer's earlier works.
All in all a pleasant musical experience. It's a pity China has spent so much money building an impressive-looking building, only to make the seats for the audiences so uncomfortable. And in the end, isn't this place for the people?