Friday, December 21, 2007

Hidden Talents

Sometimes I think I need to divide this blog into three parts or have three blogs; music, political and general Eastern European stuff and personal stuff - but then, would I be able to whinge about not liking French music in the musical corner?

When did you last hear of Plovdiv? What's Plovdiv, you ask? It's a town. Where is it? In Bulgaria; it's the second largest town in Bulgaria. Pray, so what is she writing about a town in Bulgaria? Just who, like, cares?

Well, isn't it funny that less than three weeks after I review here a book set largely in Plovdiv, I find myself looking at the back of Vladimir Kiradzijev, who was born in Plovdiv, just like Dimitre Dinev, the author of said book. Both left Bulgaria for Vienna, one in 1988, one in about 1990, with our conductor going off to study there - and he still teaches at the music university of Vienna. Meanwhile Dinev lives and works in Vienna. Are any creative Bulgarians left in Bulgaria?

Kiradzijev seems to be a very charming man, much loving in with the orchestra, being very Viennese with the ladies, and giving individual praise where it's due. Also not giving individual praise where it's not due....

The concert began with Beethoven's violin concerto with Ji-Yoon Park and my favourite percussionist, Pavelas Giunteris, playing those famous four timp notes just perfectly (he played every note perfectly throughout the concert - as he always does). Ms Park, who has been educated largely in France, played every note perfectly and in the right order. She has a very sweet tone. Sometimes it was a bit difficult to hear her over the band. At times I felt she was rushing a bit, particularly in the cadenzas where she could have lingered here and there. She looked a bit miserable, though, when not playing. I was also a bit concerned about the conductor giving her very clear entries now and again, but wondered whether that was his micro-management way of conducting the Beethoven. There was the odd moment of blissful beauty, though, especially in the last movement when she did a lovely little dance together with the bassoon. The orchestra had its moments - the French horn opening of the second movement seemed to be a brick that dropped on the floor, and the orchestra's style and the soloist's style did not always match. Overall it was not a performance that set the heather alight.

This was followed by Szymanowski's second symphony; a wall of sound, generally, with three movements. It has the odd Viennese moment, and the concert master, Zbginiev Leviskas, played these beautifully, as he always does. He is such a wonderful soloist and leader - I know I say it every time. There were moments when the entire orchestra was playing and boy, did they mow down the audience. Not sure what happened to Szymanowski at the end, but it came to a very sudden and abrupt full-stop. Did the milk boil over at that moment?

Finally they did Strauss 'Till Eulenspiegel'; very nice; this orchestra plays this quite regularly. Another opportunity for Zbginiew to show off his talent (and again very Viennese music). The piece has a moment where it goes into a dance - the conductor was ready to jive off the rostrum! The death bit at the end could have been rather more tragic, but generally it was an ok performance. The winds were in better shape than in the Beethoven (in the Szymanowski so many of them were playing all the time that individual ones were not really heard).

There was only one omission - usually in this concert hall the delectable Agne Kubiliene does the announcements (it's an Eastern European thing); she is stylish from top to toe and her diction is so sharp it would cut through steel. She was not there - is she ok? This needs to be investigated!

So not a bad evening out for the sparse audience that was scattered throughout the concert hall. What else can one do on a Friday night in Vilnius?