Saturday, November 18, 2006

Wowed in Vilnius

Four hours after touching down in Vilnius, I was in my usual seat in the Filharmonija, ready for a concert of the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra. It was a blast!

The orchestra has had its ups and downs in recent years, but today it was on an up close to stratospheric! All due to the great white hope of Lithuanian conducting, Robertas Servenikas, who has a magic touch with all Lithuanian orchestras. Already in Mozart's 2nd symphony there was a sparkle in the orchestra that is not always there. In the second half they launched into Rossini's sonata No 6, 'La Tempesta' (the tempest? or the tempestuous one?) and boy, it was tempestuous. The violas took off like a steam train, and had a wonderful solo in the second movement. The final movement was totally amazing, from a slow start reaching a blistering pace, with dynamics like I have rarely heard them from this orchestra, and, it seemed, having enormous fun with it.

But the star of the evening was the very young British clarinet virtuoso Julian Bliss, who at a mere 17 is already performing with many of the major orchestras in the UK and the wider world. He studies with Sabine Meyer in Germany which itself is a sign of very high quality indeed. He plays a very expensive-looking clarinet with golden keys (which, to my ears, has a bit of a strident edge). He totally wowed the audience with expertly bubbling his way through Weber's clarinet quintet arranged for string orchestra and clarinet, having some delightful dialogues with the orchestra, and later with the very popular Introduction, Theme and Variations for clarinet and orchestra by Rossini, loved, it seemed, by my young seat neighbours who might have been clarinet students. At this stage he still seems a tiny bit restrained in his interaction with the audience (when playing essentially fun pieces) but that may still develop (nearer the end of the concert he relaxed into it). I remember the young Emma Johnson, about 20 years ago, winning the Young Musician of the Year with a similar rendition of the Krussel (?) concerto.

This was really a brilliant concert to be welcomed home by!