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Reminiscent of the Palace of Arts from the outside, the Cultural Centre in Hong Kong is a monstrous concrete building with a slightly Socialist-Realist interior, which is nevertheless very practical.

There was airport-like discipline with an efficient calling system at the ticket counters, payment could be made with prepaid tickets at the snack bars, explaining the lack of queues, a glass of wine cost HUF 1,500, a glass of “no name” champagne HUF 9,000, though admittedly the ticket was not cheap either, quite expensive in fact.

65-70% of the grand hall seating up to 2,000 people was occupied, and tickets were sold according to a peculiar system, leaving entire rows and halves of certain sectors empty.

One tenth of the audience was European or American – businessmen or old couples – while locals came with their families and disciplined children. Everything was clean, the majority of people were well-dressed, only 1 or 2 of them, mainly white guys, wore trainers and jeans. Hostesses sat by the entrance and jumped up, just like in Hungary, as soon as anybody tried to record the sound or film the concert. Noise from sweet wrappers, chatting, ringing mobile phones, fidgeting or a chorus of coughs were conspicuous by their absence.

Every movement of the Symphony in G minor by Mozart was followed by applause, perhaps because the Festival Orchestra delivered a wonderful performance and because this is customary here.

A voice on the loudspeaker revealed the exact length of the break, and the remaining time was disclosed in the corridors and in the lobby.

Bruckner’s unfinished symphony was a genuine celebration of music with the audience’s ovation between the movements, although the only person bursting into applause after the third movement was hissed at for some reason. Nine horns were placed in three rows in front of the conductor, ten cellos were further back in twos, beside the woodwinds up to the eight double basses.

Such a beautiful sound!

The elevated finale at the end was immediately shattered by a sudden BRAVOOO, then enthusiastic and spontaneous applause (rhythmical applause may be unique to Hungary since the era of Hungarian communist leader Rákosi). Some people surged towards the cloakroom, but the majority remained there celebrating, and finally receiving the Air by Bach.

The Air.

This popular excerpt from the suite in D major may be one of the most frequently played pieces of music literature, the last time I heard it live was at the Bach Marathon played by Xavér Varnus, before that by him again and then Félix Lajkó, but I really liked this performance today, because it showed the piece in its original, noble simplicity, lacking the kitsch and romantic nonsense of popular adaptations.

When leaving, I caught the words of English-speaking people talking to each other. Their point was that they had to come to Asia to finally hear some good European classical music.