Friday, December 21, 2007

A la France

I love the French lifestyle, and the elegance of French men and women, the sound of the French language, French food and wine.... but French music? Ye gads! (I may have mentioned this before). From that over-fanciful, over-ornamented baroque to that dippy, wishy-washy, impressionistic stuff by Faure, Poulenc, Debussy, faffing around and not coming to any specific conclusion - let's put a solid note on the table. Bang!!!! This excludes the Romantics like Berlioz, Bizet (though he has his moments, too, in that trivial Arlesienne Suite) and maybe even Cesar Franck. At summer school a tutor hit a chord on the piano and said 'this is Debussy' - wasn't it just!

Concerts by a single singer and a pianist also don't turn me on particularly. I find it embarassing being eyeballed by a singer who has nothing to do with his or her hands.

So what was I doing in Liora Grodnikaite's concert of French songs, accompanied by Povilas Jaraminas? [Picture by IMGArtists who represents her]. Young Liora, a former Covent Garden 'Young Artist', has a stunning, warm mezzo voice. Her stage presence is awesome. She is very tall, further enhanced by 4-inch heels, always dresses very simply and very stylishly (No Marie Antoinette in the garden with frilly gown here), letting her warm, chocolatey, voice be in the centre of attention, and steps on the stage extremely composedly. She simply lets the music out, and does so stunningly. She expresses the music very well indeed, and sings with very clear diction (these were all French songs, bit of a difficult language to sing in). This was all fairly slow music - I wondered how she had got on as the second lady in the Covent Garden Magic Flute, which is very fast stuff...

And why did I leave before the second half? I may not have been the only one, judging by the number of people who rushed at the stage with flowers even during the first half. Liora is revered in Vilnius, particularly for some reason by the Jewish community (who despite preconceptions to the contrary here do not seem to go to concerts more than any other population groups, except when Liora sings or there is a special Jewish concert) - a few years ago she did an outstanding, overwhelming concert of Yiddish songs written by Anatolijus Senderovas. Maybe the Jewish community does not have that much homegrown talent....

Anyway, I left before the second half because I found a programme in the rubbish bin and discovered that Massenet was next up. I absolutely can't abide Massenet - not after playing that oh so sugary Meditation for some music exam (my piano teacher recently offered me a piano version - over my dead body...). I expect the second half went well, especially when she did the arias from Carmen (recently she had the title role at the Latvian National Opera) - she'll have had them rocking in the aisles!

Felt a bit sorry for Povilas Jaraminas, the accompanist. I must admit not remembering him from anywhere. He did a little solo spot playing some French piano music, when we all wanted Liora to come back. Oh well.