Sunday’s picks: Borodin Quartet and Chinese Cultural Celebration

Posted by Liz

Before going to today’s Borodin Quartet concert I really only knew of the quartet by reputation. This concert was the second in their cycle of Brahms and Tchaikovsky string quartets, featuring Brahms’ String Quartet No 2 in A minor, Op 51 and Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No 2 in F major, Op 22. Initially I found the Brahms difficult to get into because the quartet showed very little in facial expressions or body language (though I had a conversation with a festival regular in the interval who thought that this was more preferable to the playing style of quartets such as the Jupiter). Once I stopped looking at them, the music became big and emotional; it somewhat overwhelmed me and passed very quickly, leaving me feeling wrung out. The Tchaikovsky piece was mostly in a similar vein, though the 2nd and 4th movements were emotionally calmer and even had some looser player expressions. The performance was of a high calibre throughout and the players received repeated ovations.

Curiosity and a desire to see something a little lighter led me to tonight’s edition of the Chinese Cultural Celebration. The first half of the program was generally very good, especially the songs featuring traditional instruments; dances such as Love Of Boat and Fish Net, A Rainy Alley and the 2 acrobatics displays were also very popular. After the interval, there were a few more excellent instrument solos, but the vocal/dance pieces became a little less tasteful and this part of the performance was the weakest concert I have yet attended. I found tonight’s Love Song of Kangding in particular to be rather distasteful. A little searching reveals the title to refer to either a traditional song  or a 2011 Chinese film. I assume the dance was a rendition of the former, but as there seem to be many modern remixes available online I am not sure how true the dancers were to the original. Overall, I like the idea of the cultural celebration but the result was a little mixed. Sadly I didn’t attend last year’s Music and Dance from China so I can’t compare the two.

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