Friday, June 01, 2007

A flutter of programs, a shmooze of babies....

... another concert night in Tbilisi. 'Tis hot now, if not to say steamy, and it was that which my piano teacher blamed for the 9 pm start of tonight's concert in the opera house. The concert was organised by Paata Burchuladze, who is quite a famous Georgian opera singer, and who has sung in many of the top opera houses in the World, such as La Scala, and the Met, singing major roles, such as Boris Godunov, not the third wise man, or whatever tiny roles there might be in opera.

Mr Burchuladze has a fund for orphans and children deprived of parental care, which does all the right things, including trying to return children to the biological family where possible. Well done, Mr Burchuladze! Though if you had heard the story I heard this week, in a different context, about children and families, and read the articles in 'Die Zeit' about child abuse, you sometimes wonder why people bother with families. Did you know that the first child abuse prosecution in the world, in New York in 1874, was instigated by the head of the American Society for the protection of animals, because there was no-one else to do it? Take the other example of the 7-year-old who starved to death in Germany and weighed 9.5 kgs at her death - my colleague's 12-month-old weighs 11 kgs. Families, eh?

But I digress...This concert was of the opera house orchestra and Alexandre (or Alexander) Korsantia, piano. Mr Korsantia is of Georgian birth, but has lived in the US since 1992, and teaches at the New England Conservatory, a very fine school indeed. Doesn't 'our' Kim Kashkashian teach there, too? Although she also has Caucasus roots, I think hers are longer ago than Korsantia.

Korsantia is a fine pianist, and he did well against the vagaries of the evening, of which there were a few. He is very relaxed, lovely with the people around him, and this evening found himself dealing with:

  • coming on stage too early, while the announcer was still in mid-announce
  • a broken string in the piano (I did not think either that they could break, but obviously so)
  • at least one completely absent entry from the woodwind, leading to a resounding silence between piano solos
  • myriad babies and children on the stage.
He took it all in his stride. There were some beautiful moments in his playing (of Beethoven's 5th and Brahms's second piano concertos), particularly in the quieter parts where he just exuded peace and calm. Some of the faster parts had the odd fluff here and there. He did not take any risks - a little variety, extemporising, improvisation in the Beethoven cadenza might have been nice.

The orchestra, on the other hand - oh dear, oh dear. In the Brahms it was really thin - partly due to lack of numbers, and perhaps too large a stage to scatter themselves around on. The first fiddles had a solo which screamed 'fear'. The young lead cellist, the only male in his group, played a very fine solo, though - and some other lead cellists I know could take that as an example. In the Beethoven, the orchestra sounded much stronger, though it was rather galumphing through its parts - apart from that missing solo.

And then, at the end of each part of the concert, on account that this was a charity concert, out came the sponsors and out came the children and babies from the orphanages or children's homes, who found themselves kissed and cuddled on the stage by famous and wealthy people. Aw, yuck! My friend described it as exploitative. Cultural differences? Would we do it differently in 'the west'? The fact remains that the charity does good work.