Leah Hollingsworth attends the pereformance of Ke-Chia Chen, Bruch and Mendelssohn at David Geffen Hall on 21 April 2023
Paul Huang (violin) Taiwan Philharmonic/Jun Märkl
David Geffen Hall 21 April 2023
The powerful and declamatory opening from the bass drum and cello section of the Taiwan Philharmonic in Ke-Chia Chen’s new work Ebbs and Flows set the stage for a concert defined by precision and power. This, its New York premiere, was well-received and the orchestra successfully mirrored the ebb and flow of the ocean as powerful passions dissolved into murky chromatic meanderings.
A nearly imperceptible beginning to Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy exploded with emotion in just moments in the expert hands of violinist Paul Huang. His masterful bow control and fast vibrato contributed to a rich, sustained sound in the first movement. The start of the ‘Auld Rob Morris’ tune was played perfectly, with balanced double-stopping and a simplicity and beauty that captivated the ear. The following Allegro was launched by an energetic orchestral introduction that set the stage for Huang’s lively entrance, replete with effortless runs and trills. At times it was unclear which was more impressive: Huang’s nonchalance in the face of a virtuosic score, or the immense fun he was having with the music and the orchestra – which was a delight.
Huang’s dolce playing in the third movement was enchanting, with seamless lines and tender emotion. The brilliant double-stopped runs at the start of the finale were tossed off with aplomb, humour and precision; Huang’s facility was consistently impressive. The audience responded with great enthusiasm and his encore – John Corigliano’s Red Violin Caprices – was spellbinding.
The programme continued along the theme of water set up by Chen’s work, with Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, featuring beautiful lyrical playing from the strings and, after the interval, Debussy’s La mer.