I always thought Chinese Orchestra was for old people. During my secondary school’s annual concerts, I had felt that to be the most boring performance. To think that I would now actually purchase tickets to watch SCO must say something about my age.
Actually, it was Mike who had wanted to watch it and I just tagged along. The tune from the Butterfly Lovers is his favourite. It was introduced to him during his choir days in JC. I was also familiar with it, having watched the movies by Ivy Ling Po (in the 60s) and Nicky Wu (in the 90s) when it was shown on cable. The music accompaniment in the movies evoked a sorrow I didn’t know I had that brought tears to my eyes.
Well, SCO managed to evoke the same emotion with their performance on Saturday night. Led by Maestro Cao Peng, the first programme was Return of the Condor Heroes Symphony: Escape from the Temple, followed immediately by The Butterfly Lovers. The violinist, Sha Xiao Cao, who is Maestro Cao’s daughter, was truly magnificent. Her facial expression, sometimes painful, sometimes delightful, coupled with her body motion, was a performance in itself, revealing the passion inside the artist. Thereafter, she gave an encore of a Tango piece. To hear it accompanied by the SCO was both amusing and fun.
This was followed by intermission and I was worried the magic would be over and I would be bored. Not so. The next composition, Golden Snake Dancing Revelry was a familiar piece. One often hears it in Chinese dances. Nostalgia for Taiwan upped the tempo further with the talented percussion group.
The last piece, Expressions of the Yellow River-First Suite was described by Maestro Cao has a ‘troublesome’ (麻烦) one. It has five movements and required some orchestra members to play solo in parts, something that is quite daunting to the members, according to the Maestro, ‘like being in a examination’. In his introduction to this piece, he lamented the lack of good compositions for Chinese Orchestra but praised SCO as the ‘Star’ of Chinese Orchestra and the ‘treasure’ of Asia. (华乐之星, 亚洲之宝). The piece was an eye opener and showcased the different sounds of the Chinese instruments.
After that high, the SCO lead the audience to an encore with the stomping of feet and Maestro obliged with a Western composition by Strauss, played solely by the plugging of strings on the er hu and other strings instruments. Brilliant.
Both Mike and I agreed that this was the best orchestral concert we have attended.