An Arabian feast: Karina Canellakis and the Hong Kong Phil

Karina Canellakis

At first glance there doesn’t seem to be any obvious theme that connects the four works on the programme. On closer inspection, perhaps the mysterious elements of the East – anywhere East of Vienna, that is – provide the clue. Although it might not have been conductor Karina Canellakis’ intention to focus on tunes and rhythms borrowed from the East in the works, her meticulous attention to the score brought out the best individual characteristics of each, and created a mood for an evening worthy of an Arabian feast.

The overture to The Abduction from the Seraglio by Mozart, with its boisterous rhythm and tingling accoutrements from the percussion, threw the party open in high spirits. The pensive interlude that follows was soon overtaken by the romp of the opening theme to a rousing close. Lunging and stooping in clear gestures to get the most out of the orchestra, Canellakis infused Mozart’s overture not only with energy, but poise and majesty. The cymbals, triangle, drums and piccolo were embellishments to the scurrying strings that never overwhelmed them.

Given that solo violinist Augustin Hadelich’s bowing is light and delicate it wouldn’t have been a surprise had his part been buried by the orchestra in Mozart’s Violin Concerto no. 5 in A major. Yet, the cooperation between soloist and orchestra produced a result that is at the same time intimate and thoughtful, with both avoiding the limelight but emerging triumphant as one. 

The Adagio second movement is a gem of lyricism and episodic contemplation. Soloist and orchestra now sat back, kicked off their shoes, and reminisced as if they were old friends. As we hear what is said, most of it beautifully played by soloist and orchestra alike, we also occasionally glimpsed what is left unsaid, upon a wink of understanding between the two. 

Conductor Karina Canellakis’ broad vision captured the variety of mood swings perfectly and fully exploited all the lyrical and grand-standing opportunities.

With boundless energy and consummate skill, Karina Canellakis tamed a programme of disparate works into a whole that excited and pleased at the same time. 

Read the rest of the review here