In childhood, many of us enjoyed Japanese anime and or listened to Chinese traditional stories recounted by our grandparents. As adults or kidadults a lot of us still enjoy Japanese manga and fantasy. They are art forms which recall our childhood, but also bring us to a world out of reality when we need it. Winnie Yin (印玉文), an acclaimed pipa (琵琶) musician presents, in collaboration with the HKMPO, three musical fantasies inspired by these art forms.
The concert will start with the Legend of Ashitaka, from Joe Hisaishi’s (久石譲) symphonic suite for Princess Mononoke (幽靈公主), an anime fantasy produced by Hayao Miyazaki (宮崎駿) about the struggle between the supernatural guardians of a forest and the humans who consume its resources, involving the outsider Ashitaka and San, who was raised by wolves in the forest. “Mononoke” is a general term in Japanese for a spirit or monster. The performance features the opening of the suite which appears at the end of the anime.
The Butterfly Lovers Concerto originates from a Chinese legend about the love affair between Zhu Yingtai (祝英台) who attends class in disguise as a man, and Liang Shanbo (梁山伯) who develops a strong affinity for Zhu without knowing that she is a lady. After discovering that Zhu is a lady, Liang falls in love with her and they enjoy a short joyful period before Zhu’s parents arrange for her to marry a rich man. Liang dies of a broken heart. During the journey to her wedding, Zhu leaves the procession and throws herself into Liang’s grave. Their spirits turn into a pair of butterflies who fly away together. The concerto adapts melodies from the Chinese opera and folk songs about the legend. It is such a successful Chinese concerto that it is not only taken up by Chinese violinists and soloists of Chinese instruments but also by today’s great violinists such as Gil Shaham and Maxim Vengerov. Compared with the original violin concerto, He Zhanhao’s arrangement for pipa is usually played at a faster tempo offering a perfect showcase for Yin’s impeccable technique and natural expressiveness.
In Nodame Cantabile, Tomoko Ninomiya’s popular Japanese manga about Shinichi Chiaki, a meticulous musical genius and Nodame, a messy out-of-control conservatory student who prefers playing the piano by ear rather than reading the score. Shinichi, who has secret ambitions to become a conductor, meets Nodame by accident and quickly falls in love with her. With Nodame’s encouragement, Shinichi decides to take up the baton out of Japan despite his fear of flying due to an air accident when he was a kid. He enters an exciting conductor competition in which he has to conduct Dvořák’s From the New World while spotting “the errors” among a large number of orchestra players. He wins the gold medal at the competition, launching his international career. In the symphony, one can find rhythms from the composer’s motherland Bohemia, native American music and African-American spirituals while German classical masters’ influence is discernible (e.g. Scherzo from Beethoven’s Ninth vs Scherzo of Dvořák’s). Leonard Bernstein hailed it as a truly multinational masterpiece.
Joe Hisaishi: Music from Princess Mononoke
Chen Gang/He Zhanhao: Butterfly Lovers Pipa Concerto
Antonín Dvořák: Symphony no. 9 in E minor, “From the New World”, op. 95
A Musical Trilogy of Fantasies – Princess Mononoke, Butterfly Lovers & Nodame Cantabile
Hong Kong Metropolitan Philharmonic Orchestra
Date: 8pm, 20 October, 2015
Venue: HK City Hall, Concert Hall
Tickets: $200, $150, $90 from Urbtix