I had the luck to 香港管弦樂團 Yellow River concert in Hong Kong, conducted by Lü Jia 呂嘉. Don’t know if they play it for every performance or just because October 1 – the Chinese National Day is approaching, they asked us to stand up and played the National anthem. It’s short and sweet but nevertheless teared me up. China has changed so much over such short period of time. I last heard it, perhaps was while in school in the 70s, few decades! Couldn’t say if the Star and Spangle is more grand but I love both.

The programme of the night:

  1. 陳曉勇 《泱茫孤雲天地白》 CHEN XIAOYONG Interlaced Landscapes
  2. 華彥鈞 《二泉映月》 HUA YANJUN Reflection of the Moon on Erquan
  3. 殷承宗、劉庄、儲望華、盛禮洪、石叔誠、許斐星改編 《黃河》鋼琴協奏曲 Arr. YIN, LIU, CHU, SHENG, SHI & XU Yellow River Piano Concerto, 陳潔 Chen Jie piano
  4. 德伏扎克 第九交響曲「新世界」 DVORÁK Symphony No. 9 From the New World

The first piece was hard to listen; the second was easy on the ears but too watery, no meat.
Then came the Yellow River. The pianist is a girl Chen Jie 陳潔 .
I told Auntie Jennie about my random encounter with the man whose fame and fortunate is so closely associated with this piece. Even on the program, his name came first.
“It has to be Yin Chengzong [to play this piece].” Jennie commented authoritatively.
She’s right.
When the girl pianist came out in a funny outfit, gold one-shoulder cape over dark-pink fat pants, I felt she couldn’t anchor the orchard and the piece as well.
“How about Lang Lang?” I asked her.
“Hmm, he does this piece well too.” she agreed.
Yellow River concerto suits burly man, anything less would have been consumed by the roaring, often violent currents. (It’s great to see Yin is enjoying his second fame: I get emailing for his concert in NJ from time to time and he had gone back to China performed with his former employer 中央乐团, also in Shenzhen 深圳.)
The concerto began with powerful crescendo and Chen had to use both her index and middle fingers. .. She did ok. Audience asked for encore and got one. She came back, introduced the piece in English and played.
“Hmm .. not bad. He’s (the conductor Lü) good. She’s not bad either.” Jennie gave her approval. She particularly liked his conducting style. She imitated his hand, up in the air and slowly descend ..
“He’s my 学弟, younger alumni at the Central Conservatory of Music (中央音乐学院). His teacher Zheng Xiaoying 郑小英 was my classmate at Central Conservatory of Music .. ”
Someone burbled audibly even the conductor turned his head slightly at the loud odd noise from the audience.

That’s a first for me.

Jennie told me that HKPO has gotten a new conductor Edo de Waart.
“He fired lots of Chinese and brought in many his own musicians.”
The consolation was to see the first violins were mostly Chinese, except the concert master.
She said the violinists make about HK$30,000 a month, concert master HK$50k. There’s couple to our left in the audience. The man’s parents were her former colleagues. They greeted each other.
“He was among the Chinese who got fired ..”
Few musicians on the stage winked at him.
” .. in fact, the Chinese woodwind instrumentalists, the horn, etc. are all pretty lousy ..” She commented.

During the intermission, Auntie Jennie talked about Fan Weihan 范维汉, my grade school classmate, the other golden boy who destined to share the limelight of violin world with her son Stephen …
“Few months ago at a concert in ShenZhen, a man came over greeted me, ‘Auntie Zhang.’ I was like … ‘who ARE you?’
He said ‘I’m Weihan’.. ..
Heaven, he looks like an old dude with balding head.'”
We both laughed.
Neither golden boys made any dent on the national stage. Stephen enjoyed a little glory as the concertmaster with Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra in his late teens and now a businessman, making and selling violins. Fan came back to China from USA and joined his father’s employer – the Zhongyang yuetuan 中央乐团 or the CNSO now, sitting at the last row of first violin.
“They make about RMB3,000 a month.” Jennie stuck up three fingers. “The concertmaster makes about 5,000 yuan.” She shocked her head.
“Looking at them, it was only Fan who played with enthusiasm. All others were like half sleeping. Even the soloist was teetering onto the stage.” 参差不齐 irregular. More head shaking fm Auntie Jennie, as in disbelieve.

Jennie is in dispute with CNSO: they classified her as lizhen 离职 leaving the office which entitled her nothing for her 20 years of service. In fact she left for HK in 1980 without indicating if she was leaving for good or retiring, lixiu 离休. When she left, real estate in China was nothing now worth a astronomical figure. The apartment (they moved to a new apartment that belong all to them – no sharing) she shared with her first husband inherited by the nurse he married. Auntie Jennie is angry for losing both: a pension and the apartment.

After the intermission, they played the New World. I wished for Beethoven’s violin concerto. Now that is an extravagant hope. I’ve got my Yellow River. I’m being greedy for B’s violin concerto. Never hurt to have a dream 🙂

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