Friday, June 15, 2007

Lutowslawski, Szymanowski, Vaughan Williams, Burlea

A normal evening in the Moldova new music festival. I had warned my colleagues that it would be all 20th century- not quite a Mozart evening, but I'm not sure I would like this orchestra to do Mozart.

It was the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Moldova (I think) playing in the Filharmonica. The Filharmonica has seats from the same job lot as the Tbilisi opera, though they seem to be less well padded. We could see the seats well because most of them were empty - maybe the hall was 30 -40% full.

The concert was sponsored by the Polish embassy, hence the Lutoslawski (Symmphony 4) and the Szymanowski (Symphony 2). There was also Vaughan Williams' tuba concerto which I had last heard at the Young Musician of the Year competition in Glasgow in about 1994 (when Freddy Kempf won the competition), and Burlea's string piece in 5 parts (Burlea is Moldovan). Whenever do you get programming like that?

The Lutoslawski was kind of noise, background noise, though in clear sections; near the end I thought the cat was trying to get in to get a drop of milk. I thought the orchestra did well, under the circumstances, but it was a bit difficult to tell.

The Vaughan Williams was great; fairly British, with bits of sea shanties. The middle movement was probably closest to the danger of cow pat music, but otherwise the music was very pleasant, and it worked well for the tuba. So did the Tubist - name not known. The orchestra was having fun, too, and the cellos were grinning for quite a bit of the piece - a tuba, playing a concerto? It would make a cat laugh! Still the orchestra was doing well.

After the interval the weaknesses in the orchestra started to appear. Burlea's 5 movements were brief and to the point; the violas had wonderful solos but screamed 'fear'! The first fiddle had nice folklorish solos. It lacked oomph, and could have been played with much more intensity.

In the Szymanowski 3-movement symphony a great deal more notes were played than were written, with plenty of dissonances when the different groups had solos (glad they did not attempt Mozart). This symphony did not seem to be going anywhere, although that may have been the problem of the interpretation. It was written on a fairly grand scale, and reminded slightly of Mahler - though the announcer at the beginning of the concert had also spoken about Bartok. Again there were moments of folksy tunes...

The brass and wind in general did better than some other winds I could mention, but the strings were thin and out of tune. You could not really recommend the orchestra for a foreign tour.