Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Four Seasons ... a la Vivaldi

Since I always leave my mobile phone at home, I don't normally draw attention to myself at concerts. But I may have done today when half-way through Camerata Klaipeda's 'Four Seasons' I had to check the programme to see if these concertos had been described as 'adapted by....'. Unusually the auditorium was dark, so what was a woman to do except whip out her micro-torch and check the programme. Bit of a shame for the cameraman who was filming right behind me - TV viewers may have seen the screen change nature for a moment.

Vivaldi for purists it was not. Vilhelmas Cepinskas, the founder of Camerata Klaipeda, is a gifted violinist, playing everything with great ease (especially this piece which I have heard from him about three times now); he is also a gifted arranger, and it seems he gets a bit carried away with himself. Bits of the solo were passed around the band, does the third concerto really have no violin solo in the second movement (? the harpsichord suddenly got busy), there were slides - long distance ones - which were certainly not even thought of by Vivaldi, and other very much not baroque ornaments. It was only tinkering at the edges, though - but what's the point? A mildly jazzed-up version? When do you start describing a piece as 'arranged by....much Baroque music allows the performers to add ornaments, change tempi (Bach's cello suites) but shouldn't that be in the Baroque style?

Then Boris Andrianov from Russia played the Haydn C-major cello concerto. The Camerata Klaipeda consists of very young players - I doubt if many are over 25, and I reckon it's a bit of a risk letting them play by themselves without a conductor. Here the soloist let them do the whole introduction before then launching himself faster than the band; they did their best, but there was not that much togetherness. Andrianov blistered through the final movement at breakneck speed, and including some wonderful little moments here and there.

He came totally into his own though in his encore, a Moldovan dance arranged for cello and orchestra, which was just brilliant. Not that far off the kind of music you would get in a Kusturica film. This was amazing, and he and the band interacted well.

After the interval (did I mention this was a long concert, five concertos before the interval?) the Camerata on their own attempted a string quartet for tango by Piazzolla. Just now I am reading Levitin's book 'Your Brain on Music' where it discusses categorization, prototypes and examples of particular things. This was a case in point. The music was written by Piazzolla (presumably), all the bits were there, the slides, the slaps, the scratches - and still it did not work. Every time the music turned around it took a while to get going. With a good conductor they would have been fine.

How fine was shown immediately when Vilhelmas Cepinskas joined them in a mini concerto by Piazzolla for violin and string band (possibly an arranged quintet - it was a programme change). It went much better; there was some intimate interaction between Vilhelmas and the viola lead which she played beautifully, and the band had a much greater sense of purpose.

The next piece was an Eastern Europe special. The 'Bremen musicians' is a children's show based on the fairy tale of the donkey, dog, cat and cockerel who busked (if I remember correctly from my childhood). Every Eastern European capital seems to put this piece on at least somewhere in the city (most have a children's theatre or three). Andrianov then made a suite for cello and orchestra out of it, and Cepinskas further arranged a little violin part for himself. Now, this ain't highbrow music - it's absolutely children's music, though it gets a bit lively at the end. The audience, many of whom will have fond memories of the show, loved it. The arrangement was brilliant and it was huge fun. It's certainly a piece you could perform more often in a fun concert. The band also played really well.

But the peak (and geez, wasn't it time we got to the end of the concert?) was Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No 2, arranged for violin and string band. Bit complicated, no? Liszt presumably wrote it for piano, and then orchestrated it (? I've played it in a big symphony orchestra), and I assume further that Cepinskas arranged it from the piano part, rather than the orchestral version - he would have gone crazy with that. This was brilliant! Cepinskas really has a bit of the Hungarian in him, and this was pure showmanship. The band got completely into its stride - it was a fantastic end to the concert!

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