Monday, January 01, 2007


Did not the late Thora Hird use this word, in one of those Alan Bennett plays? It popped into my mind right at the start of the New Year's Eve concert of Musica Humana in the Lutheran Church in Vilnius. The programme included works by Bach and Vivaldi (New Year's Eve is not the time to get heavy!), and there were at least three bits of unnecessariness: the programme began with Winter from Vivaldi's four seasons with a flute and an oboe sharing the solo (violin) part. The transcription was rather ham-fisted and quite unnecessary - it was a bit like a minuet between the oboist and the flautist, they each did a bit, then they played in unison, and so on. What was even more unnecessary was the ornamentation added by the flautist when it came to his turn - much like Russian fashion - not a straight line anywhere, but frills here, there and everywhere.

Then the flautist, who runs the group, went on to conduct the 7 string players in a Bach sinfonia. Conducting a septet - mind you, I have heard of a composer conducting two very famous viola players in a first performance - but here it was a relatively simple Bach piece. Come on! And anyway, they can ignore him because the leader of the group, Jonas Tankevicius of the Ciurlionis Quartet, is so brilliant at leading.

There might have been even more unnecessariness - I am not totally convinced that some of the pieces (in this and other programmes by the same group) need simultaneous flute and oboe in the orchestra - especially when both are constantly playing together. The word 'job creation' comes to mind for the other flute in the band (who is possibly emotionally close to the flautist conductor?).

The oboist, Robertas Beinaris, is brilliant, and he did a wonderful rendition of a Vivaldi Oboe concerto - though I wondered if he had to hold his breath quite as long. But I am always grateful that he continues to play in Vilnius rather than going abroad. The singers all did well, though they had rather short arias - and the final piece, Vivaldi's Credo, gave them all a good chance to give it laldy. The flautist/conductor then got all carried away, giving lots of encores. This caused some anxiety, because ....

I had to rush across to St John's Church for the New Year's Concert of the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra conducted by the wonderful Robertas Servenikas. St John's is the big Jesuit church in the university, and often used for state occasions, such as the 13th of January commemoration of the events around the uprising against the Russians in 1991. This concert and the New Year's Eve concert are both fixtures in the annual social and musical calendar. The trouble with New Year's Eve is the lack of good available soloists; many are very busy working elsewhere, and loath to travel away from home. Also the trouble with playing in a big church with a BIG ECHO is that sounds mingle, or sometimes not.

Both came together in this concert. The conductor did his best, and the orchestra had some moments of glory, especially in Haydn's first symphony. The singer unfortunately sang rather flat, and the violinist, a young student studying in Cologne, Germany, had rather more squeaks than necessary (more unnecessariness? but this was unintentional), though otherwise she got well round Saint Saenss Introduction and Rondo - it just lacked fire - sometimes a beautiful tone is not necessary. It seems that the original string playing soloist was not available and so this young woman was taken in at short notice, maybe. The concert finished, as every year, with Haydn's farewell symphony. Strangely, I always thought the first viola was the last one to leave, but this time the two first fiddles were last left on the stage. Overall it sounded as if both sides of the orchestra had trouble being together, but that might be the result of the acoustics. Anyway, 'twas New Year's Eve, or Hogmanay, as we Scots call it - so we were flexible....