Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Feliz año nuevo!

So, at 2 am Lithuanian time, I start as I finished last year - with a review!

The blissful thing about spending New Year's Eve on your own is that you can eat the food you like, drink how much or little you like, and ok, suffer the excruciality of dreadfulness of German TV offerings unless you have something better to do, watch the Lithuanian fireworks across the road from me - especially those aimed straight at my balcony....and then...

...and then....

you have a final flick across the channels, and what do you find? A New Year's Eve concert of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra from Caracas, Venezuela, broadcast by arte. I ask you, what more can anyone ask for?

As always, it was the huge band, though at first the wind groups played. The audience was a total family audience, including lots of children. The pieces were mostly South American, and big on rhythm and percussion. They included compositions by Piazzolla, Perez Prado, Arturo Marquez, Silvestre Revuelto and two young composers of Dudamel's age, who were also 'products of the sistema'.

One of these was the 'War of the[orchestral] Sections' by Felix Mendoz, which it seems they also performed at the London Proms. It was brilliant - so much fun! To not only use all instruments of the orchestra, but also voices, including a singing and dancing trumpet player, and anything to make a sound, written by someone so young - it's awesome! The Venezuelan audience do not hold back at moments like this, but dance happily along in their chairs. It must be so hard for this orchestra to perform in front of a stuffy European audience....

A bit of an interlude allowed the classical/folk violinist Alexis Cardenas and his group Trabuco on the stage for some improvisation. He is a stunning violinist, fully trained in the classical music, but likes to mix classical and Venezuelan folk music. It appears that he was at the Kaunas Jazz Festival in Lithuania last summer.....How good he is was shown in a concerto piece whose name I forget but I think it was by Sylvestre Revuelto (the programme will be repeated today at 11 am ....). This also included his group, and in the middle of it, an improvisation section not quite foreseen by Senor Revuelto, he suddenly fiddled down a whole movement of a Bach partita - so incredibly lightly and fluently - wow, what a violinist he is. Anyone who is a fan of Lakakos (you know who you are) should take an interest in Cardenas - unfortunately he has only brought out one CD so far, and that may be difficult to obtain.

At least two of the pieces they called were called 'Mambo'. A mambo, as far as I understand, having played a few in my time, is a refrain that is played again and again - and it's fun. The audience, who had been so quiet during the Bach that you could have heard the proverbial pin drop, was off at these - and when they played the Bernstein (from the West Side Story, it's probably their party piece) there was no holding back anyone.

If the rest of the year continues as it started, I'll be happy....

Incidentally, Ms Operachic, I passed through 'live from the Scala' earlier in the evening (New Year's Eve); what did those ladies in Swan Lake wear on their ears? They looked rather like ammonites. And what about those dancers? They had a good attack of gravity, no?