Wednesday, October 17, 2007

They must have lost his luggage....

Airlines, you know how they are, especially if you use UK airports. Luggage goes missing all the time.

It's the only way I can explain that tonight's conductor and soloist, Barry Douglas, was dressed worse than anyone in the orchestra. I have commented on his appearance before, though not sure that much of the impish smile was around tonight. It was the black t-shirt combined with the dark grey lounge suit that got me. While the suit did not look as if it had been slept in, an iron would never have hurt. All this was topped off with the gold watch looking out from his sleeve when he conducted from the piano. It's probably just me, I find gold rather naff, but some Irishmen seem to go for lots of gold (viz Jimmy Galway and his golden flute).

Anyway. Barry Douglas, the pianist, who won the gold medal (more gold...) at a Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow, is into conducting, too. From memory. Everything. Tonight he got the piano concerto over with first; I had the feeling that playing the piano and conducting to him is a bit like playing the piano with two hands and using the pedals, too is to me - in my case the feet throw the hands; his looked a bit of an effort. Also because the piano was sitting in the usual position for a piano concerto, rather than up the middle of the orchestra, as is the norm in piano-conductor arrangements. It was all right. He played all the notes at the right time, but it did not inspire - in particular the second movement lacked legato. Not very interesting.

The Bartok divertimento for strings was so so, too; not many dynamics, and not much inspirational rough stuff, and little fire. The piece had some interesting moments (written by Bartok), but not played by the band. There could have been much more lushness. The first fiddler and his colleagues, who had solo spots, did fine, though. The cellos got the entry which they were not given.

The Kinsella nocturne followed this. Kinsella seems to have been a head of Irish radio, one assumes of the classical station. It was a one-movement piece, much of a muchness, you know what a nocturne is supposed to do, and so my mind drifted off.

Finally it was Mozart's 29th symphony. It started languidly and uninterestingly. I was contemplating the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra's gorgeous young first cellist (probably not quite so young any more!), Dainius, who has finally given in and got himself a pair of trendy glasses after spending the last 7 years peering at the audience. His facial movements now look quite different, what with him being able to have his eyes open.

Suddenly, at the coda of the first movement, I became aware that something had changed! The conductor and the orchestra got a pulse, and it was stunning performance from then on. I don't know what lead to this sudden infusion of energy, but everyone burst into life and it was a riveting performance from then on! Only, the perils of conducting from memory... either the horns completely missed a lengthy entry, or, more likely the conductor gave it a few bars in advance. Oh the embarrassment of waving your hands high up in the air and nothing happens....