Sunday, April 22, 2007


Actually, there were two concerts today. The first was a collaboration between the music academy, the American Centre, and a local wind band called 'Trimitas' (trumpet). I only got the first half of this concert, and do not really feel qualified to comment on wind bands. The final piece they played before the interval was one of those rousing pieces, 'we are Americans' and was presented by the conductor as a 'gift from the American people'. At this point it is well worth remembering that the American people as a whole are delightful people, helpful, kind and extremely polite, and very different from their government. If this piece had been played in Scotland, it would have been described as 'foot-tapping'; a kind of American Radetzky March where the audience had to applaud along in places (which were a bit long, and the audience faltered). I'm told the sound of the band (combining Trimitas and music academy students) had improved considerably in their collaboration with John Lynch, the conductor straight from Kansas.

This was to be followed by a dance performance by our own Egle Spokaite, and dance students, in collaboration with an American choreographer and dancer, Patrick Suzeau, but I had to rush off to the Filharmonija for another concert.

This programme, I'm sorry guys, was extremely staid and conventional. Could have been played 150 years ago. Beethoven's Fidelio overture, 2nd piano concerto and Brahms' first symphony. The absent audience must have thought so, too. Fair enough, at the same time my first concert was still continuing (well attended), and there was another concert in the Jauna Muzika electronic music series. But few regular concert goers wopuld have been diverted to these latter concerts. So basically I suspect that people just found this Beethoven/Brahms concert boring. If in Vilnius there are only old folk in concerts, the concerts are boring.

Barry Douglas, with his flowing grey locks, carefully manicured stubble and impish smile looks like the archetypal Irish guy. I'm not sure what makes people look Irish or British, but somehow one can see the difference. Bit of a sensitive topic, which as a former West of Scotland resident I should move off quickly.

Anyway. In Beethoven's day the Hammerklavier was more common, and it sounded as if Douglas had taken this on board, hammering away at the piano, particularly in the first and jeez, taking 'attacca' literally, when bursting into the final movement. As described below, I have problems with sound at the moment, but thought that the Steinway sounded extremely crisp. I have always thought it lacks warmth, but here it was so clear and crisp that it could have sliced the air into tiny segments. The middle movement lacked warmth, I thought, though I suppose Beethoven was not really a romantic composer. There was little communication between conductor and soloist, not necessarily for the wrong reasons, and the orchestra sure had its moments. Someone had mentioned to me that in Lithuania it's difficult for the winds to make a common entry at the same time; I had forgotten that until at one moment the winds clattered in quite spectacularly one after another. As an encore Douglas played something that sounded like Debussy, again I felt in a slightly clinical way. But I'm no lover of Debussy or his ilk.

The Brahms, one of my favourite symphonies (I have a bad memory of playing it), was ok; very noisy (has he not written 'p' or even 'ppp' anywhere?), and it was only during the violin solo at the end of the second movement that I thought - this is usually played much more slowly, no? Anyway, the orchestra seemed to enjoy playing it, though I am sure they have played it lots of times before. I've heard it at least once in Vilnius. It would have been nice to stay at the other concert for the dance, but I had not been to the Filharmonija all year.