06 December 2011

From Pearl Harbour to a largely overshadowed Japanese conductor (Part 1)

Time flies. It all happened 70 years ago. Nowadays Christmas is a day of joy and fun for the new generations in Hong Kong. For my grandparents, 25 December was a day to be remembered in sorrow and fear. The Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during WWII started on 25 December, 1941. Over the years, I had a decent collection of those tragic and horrendous tales about the 3 years and 8 months of Japanese occupation told by my grandparents and even my parents who were just children at that time. Their first-hand experiences are testamentary to the sufferings and atrocities of life under Japanese occupation. These were burn marks scorched in their minds which our generation, who has always been living in peacetime, will never be able to appreciate fully. I realised this in my grandparents' eyes when the stories were told. Particularly affecting was my grandma telling me how helpless they were when her whole family clustered in a small room waiting for fate to decide their survival during the area bombing of Wanchai, Hong Kong Island at that time.

My grandma was the person closest to me, apart from my parents, during my childhood and teenage years. She passed away a few years ago. She is the epitome of all the virtues present in traditional Chinese women. Her words were always soothing to my mind. I still miss her very much. 

The Japanese attack on Hong Kong started on 8 December, 1941, only less than half a day after their surprise attack on Pearl Harbour. When I think of Pearl Harbour, I start to think of the US-Japanese negotiations in the months before the attack occurred. What if the talk had been successful and the Pacific War aborted? One person involved in these US-Japanese negotiations was Kaname Wakasugi (若杉 要), Minister-Counsellor of the Japanese Embassy in the USA in 1941. How important his role was in affecting the final outcome of the negotiations is of interest to historians, and I've read a fair bit of it, but not to me here. It is his son, Hiroshi Wakasugi (若杉 弘), a conductor largely overshadowed internationally by Seiji Ozawa (小澤 征爾), and domestically by Takashi Asahina (朝比奈 隆), that I'd like to discuss.

03 December 2011

Music once again

I was so busy in the last two to three weeks that I could not pay much attention to this blog and, sadly, to music as well. However I didn't miss out on ordering some CDs for Christmas. Just-arrived items include the Audite RIAS box-sets of Klemperer and Knappertsbusch, Venzago's Bruckner 0&1, Blunier's Bruckner 8 and Bünte's Bruckner 7. Those in the mail include Abbado's 3 Pergolesi discs on DG Archiv (not new, but nonetheless eagerly awaiting) and Nezet-Seguin's new Bruckner 4. Now I can listen to music to my heart's content over the weekend.

I returned to the string orchestra version of Beethoven's op. 131 as my first sublime sojourn, one disc by Bernstein and the other by Previn. Then perhaps I can post some more blog entries.

It seems that record companies are quite desperate to make the most of money from their archives. Hot on the heels of EMI's Celibidache Munich recordings comes Wand's Berlin Philharmonic Bruckner packaged in a box-set to be released next month. Price-wise both are really attractive for those who haven't got them. The cover art is quite stylish.

Again, as I said before, Wand is truly ubiquitous.

Another happy thing is that this morning I got a ticket for a March 2012 BRSO concert of Bruckner 5, conducted by Daniel Harding, in the Hong Kong Arts Festival when counter booking first opened today.