Friday, July 06, 2007

Congress Finale

Some interesting events at the end of this viola congress. This congress was special in that it did not have any viola megastars, as in Montreal or Germany, but it had much very interesting music instead; sometimes megastars play the same boring old repertoire all the time, and not always necessarily well. But of course it's nice to hear them, and they are often the source of much new viola music being composed.

A talk by Hartmut Lindemann, a German viola professor, focused on musicians of the Heifetz/Kreisler era, and their differences in playing style. Lindemann is said to be able to identify players of this era by sound alone - within the first couple of bars or so! He obviously loves their style, as was clear by his concert a day later. The thought did occur that no-one plays Mozart like Kreisler or Heifetz any more. Interestingly, a recording by Joseph Joachim showed that he hardly ever used vibrato.

The congress' gala concert consisted of 3 pieces for viola and orchestra; first an elegy by Sculthorpe. He is a well respected composer, though this elegy was rather on the long side (about 20 minutes). Imagine playing that at a funeral service! Francis Kefford, the soloist, is a very young (and very competent violist) who in time will have serious trouble with his neck, unless he stops using his viola as a pillow now! This was followed by Charles Bodman Rae's concerto for viola and orchestra - a world premiere. CBR is the dean (or something) of the Elder Conservatorium in Adelaide, so it was kind of a home match for him. He was also, as a pianist, a student of the famous Fanny Waterman. His piece was written for orchestra including double winds and a harp - expensive to perform. It had three movements, and was written a few months ago. The movements blended into each other, and, to be honest, were much of a muchness, with not much difference between them. The piece was supposed to last 28 minutes, but actually lasted well over 30 minutes, so maybe it was played too slowly. The sounds lay well on the viola, though, and Juerg Daehler, a Swiss violist, seemed much happier, and much more lively, with this than with his first recital. Finally there was Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante (first time I have heard it this year), and that was a rather strange performance, with not much communication between the soloists, Terence Tam (violin) and Tobias Lea (viola). There was no blending, and little communication, with each doing their own thing. I thought that Tam was a shade hasty with many of his entries, and a wee bitty on the fast side - most times the violist then had to follow or echo the violinist, but he did his own thing. There were only two occasions, in the third movement, where the violist lead the interaction - and he seemed much happier there. Maybe Mozart had not throught through the different roles of the instruments, and maybe equal opportunities had not been a topic in his day....

It's a shame that again (3 congresses out of 4) I missed the final events, what with having incorrectly booked the flights back this time. It was great, and wonderful meeting all those friends again, and meeting some new internet friends, face to face! It was also great playing the viola again, after a 6 month break - I could barely read the music any more....