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Showing posts from August, 2007

Knussen conducts Webern, Anderson and his own works late at night

Oliver Knussen conducted a marvelous programme of contemporary music at the late night PROMS yesterday. His interpretation of his Ophelia Dances and Requiem (sung by Claire Booth) conveyed the emotions without loosing the cool - the latter work was a solemn and personal tapestry of feelings. Webern's Five Pieces for Orchestra was a real joy to listen to - the 4th piece which contained only 7 bars gave a new meaning to "Less Is More". Knussen did a customary repeat of all five pieces just in case if anyone in the audience missed it the first time round! The evening concluded with Julian Anderson's Book of Hours - with the composer at the console interweaving sampled electronic sound into the live performance. Knussen's "cartridge onto the vinyl LP" gesture was a firm
acknowledgemnet of the importance of the recorded elements of the work.
The work sounded more sonorous then when it was first performed in Birmingham a few years ago, and had a indescribably s…

A deep Bruckner Symphony No 8, Haitink conducting the Concertgebouw

It was not so many years ago when Bernard Haitink was Music Director at the Royal Opera, yet he somehow managed to maintain his link with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra over all these years. So it was a wonderful evening to listen to their performance of Bruckner 8th Symphony at the BBC Proms.

It was a deep and pensive performance - with beautiful strings and woodwind playing, the brass section was always forward without being aggressive. The whole architecture of the piece was nicely laid out before us - especially for work that is so immense and complex. Most memorable.

Is decorum compatible with individualism?

A recent visit to one of the top restaurants in Hong Kong has caused me to ponder on this question: is decorum compatible with individualism?

It was not so long ago (think pre-dotcom boom) where smart restaurants required guests to put "jacket and tie" on and investment bankers wore sharp suits to work. Just as military uniform (precursor to the modern day gentleman's suit) signified an officer's rank, one's clothing arguably provides an important non-verbal cue to one's desires, intentions and social ranking. Individuals thus observed the social contract with society and adopted their behaviour accordingly.

The dotcom era brushed much of this aside - "dress down everyday" meant out-of-shape investment bankers (or lawyers or consultants) wore ill fitted shirts and trousers, while millionaire twenty-something paraded their designer t-shirts and jeans at trendy places. Many smart establishments have succumbed to this pressure by relaxing dress code - …

Good food at Pierre, Mandarin Oriental, ambiance could be better

This new French haute cuisine restaurant by Pierre Gagnaire at the Mandarin Oriental hotel had been opened for a few months when I made my visit on Saturday evening. The foyer has a peculiar look and feel of haute couture meets night club with those big LCD display of fade-in and fade-out images. What happened to just an elegant and dramatic floral arrangement?

The deco is coherent with predominantly dark tones. I took the menu degustation just to check out the breadth and capability of the kitchen. The wine list was OK - main stream catering for the ostentatious clientele.  The dishes were all well presented and executed - with the richer seafood dishes better than the lighter variety. The presentation of the dishes was very good - with judicious use of unusually shaped porcelain and arrangements.

What was enjoyable? The generally well prepared and presented dishes, harbour view (if you have a window next to you).

What was not enjoyable? The sound level could be enhanced - it's too …

Wagyu on Hollywood Road, Hong Kong

It's Friday, it's the beginning of the weekend, and Lan Kwai Fong was positively buzzing last night. Even though it was one of the hotter days, the streets were heaving with expats and locals alike.

We found ourselves having dinner at Wagyu on Hollywood Road. It's a New World joint serving up generous portions of crab martini (lumps of crab meat mixed with finely chopped cucumber and bell peppers) and Wagyu beef (presumably it's from Australia). My 8 oz. fillet steak was cooked to perfection, though the accompanying Bearnaise Sauce was a disaster - a pool of barely emulsified butter with not a speck of tarragon.

We ordered Aussie Pavlova as a pudding to share among the four of us - and lucky we ordered just the one as it's huge!