Wednesday, January 10, 2007


It all began one sunny June evening, when Ann Roggen and I met up in New York over a spot of Greek dinner. And lovely it was, too - quite near the Lincoln Center, where Ann was due to play later that evening in an American Ballet Theater production (note the US spelling - it's quite hard to do!). At that time we chatted about possibilities of Ann coming to Vilnius, as you do, and as I have often done with other people in other parts of the world (including a megalomaniac idea of running an International Viola Congress in Vilnius).

Moving on, a couple of months later I heard that Ann was going to spend Christmas in Vienna, around a series of concerts with the violinist Diane Pascal ....and we wondered if she could come to Vilnius? A quick approach to the American Center soon sorted out the financial details, and a multitude of negotiations later we had everything else fixed up.

So last night the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre found itself hosting a celebration of the violin and viola, with a concert of violin and viola duets. Now, this is specialist music, and it is not surprising that the audience was a little sparse (also because it was exam time and the students did not understand that a break from incessant practice is A Good Thing). The ladies are in good company - the first time the Fine Arts Quartet played in Vilnius they found themselves at the end of a music marathon, which had quite tired out the audience. Then they played a full evening's concert and hardly anyone was left in the hall by the end. The string quartet's second concert in Vilnius was much more successful.

The two ladies played very nicely indeed; composers in the audience complemented them on their ensemble playing and their togetherness, their perfect intonation and their wonderful tone, especially considering that the violin sounded quite like a viola - apart from the e-string. I wondered though if at times there might have been a greater variety of dynamics, and perhaps a bit more risk-taking here and there (eg in the last movement of the Mozart).

The programme was very extensive; including duets by Villa Lobos, Schikele, Mozart, Martinu, Quincy Porter, and 2 out of four little pieces for violin by John Harbison written for his wife; and two pieces for viola by Alan Hovhanness, an American-Armenian composer.

The Villa Lobos was supposed to contain folk music (not sure it did) and birdsong and sounds of the night (which it did). The second movement had a wonderful viola solo. The Hovhaness was wonderful; very Armenian (though someone else thought it was very Jewish - I am not sure that there is a great deal of difference between Armenian and Jewish harmonies and rhythms).

The concert was very long indeed; plenty of value for money or 'bang for their buck' for the American Center, and plenty of exposure to new repertoire for the students and teachers attending the concert. Those of the audience who lasted till the end were highly appreciative, and a good time was had after the concert!!

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violainvilnius said...

A dedicated reader tells me that in fact it is the American Ballet Theatre performing at the Lincoln Center.

Go figure the logic of US spellings