24 October 2019 - 25 Tishri 5780 - כ"ה תשרי ה' אלפים תש"פ
Hong Kong Bach Choir presents a tale of two anniversaries (with a Hong Kong twist) E-mail

In a banner year for musical anniversaries, the Hong Kong Bach Choir (HKBC) will focus on two of the most important anniversaries as it opens its 2018-19 season with music commemorating the lives of Leonard Bernstein and Gioachino Rossini – adding a post-modern bouquet of celebratory flowers by Hong Kong composer Ip Kimho – on 6 December at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall.

Bernstein was the protean genius of 20th-century music. Composer, conductor, pianist, educator and all-round cheerleader for music, he was among the best-selling performers of the post-war scene, his music bridging the divide between “serious” and “popular”. In this he was the ultimate successor to Rossini – the Duke Ellington, Elvis Presley and Andrew Lloyd Webber of his day, all rolled into one – whose operas brought elites and proletarians together in the theatre even as they fought revolutionary battles in the streets. In other words, Rossini was the 19th century’s Leonard Bernstein! (Bernstein’s popular Overture to Candide even mimics the form of Rossini’s opera overtures.)

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Bernstein’s birth and the 150th anniversary of Rossini’s death, the choir will present Bernstein’s beloved Chichester Psalms, commissioned by an Anglican cathedral in England but setting the original Hebrew texts from The Book of Psalms: a triumph of ecumenicism in the midst of the tumultuous 1960s and a mark of Bernstein’s ever-present Jewish consciousness.

Chichester Psalms is paired with Rossini’s final masterpiece, the Petite messe solennelle, which he composed as his ticket to Heaven. As he wrote on the final page of the manuscript, “Dear Lord, here it is, finished, this poor little mass... Blessings to you and grant me Paradise.” And no doubt he’s there now, listening with pleasure.

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