Friday, March 14, 2008

I swear I've seen those beats before

Bit of a concert of two halves tonight at the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Vladimir Ziva. I'm sure I've seen him in Moscow before - there was a conductor of similar build and colouring who always gave the beats to the band before they started....at the Tchaikovsky Conservatoire, with a Russian orchestra. But it was before my blogging days, and the ticket I may have kept would give no info, and programmes are hardly worth getting at the venue. No matter.

The first half had Ravel's 'Spanish Rhapsody'; a nice piece with well-known parts, but it did not quite have the Spanish swing, or whatever you call Spanishness in music. It just did not quite go, even though the orchestra played rather well - there was some nice trumpet playing (never guaranteed here). This was followed by Lukas Geniusas playing the Saint-Saens second piano concerto. Young Lukas, born 1990 in Moscow, is the offspring of Petras Geniusas, the best-loved pianist in Lithuania. Lukas' uncle is a conductor, as was his grandfather. It's another one of the Lithuanian dynasties, of which we have too many. Lukas lives in Moscow and gets his training there (the Russian granny might be a piano professor). Frankly, the performance did not set the heather alight. Even though the hall was packed to the rafters with friends of the family, not a single 'Bravo' was heard. The first movement was dull; after that he got going a bit, but he was too much huddling into the piano (says she, sitting at the far left of the hall) and he did not really let it rip. He played a well-known Chopin encore, with a bit more zing, but also with quite a few iffy chords. Not totally convinced. Also the way he sidled onto the stage, looking as if he was about to be beaten, I wondered if he was totally comfortable.... This reminds my of my Georgian colleague, who at 16 toured Lithuania playing a Grieg piano concerto, but then became a gynaecologist, and now is second-in-charge of a powerful NGO. Young people still have options open to them.

The second half - wow, what a half! It was Mozart's 40th symphony. I have always had doubts about this band and Mozart, but boy, did they play well this time. Even though it was the big band with 12 first fiddles and so on. With a hint of HIP performance, a delicacy I have never heard before, pianissimos which were like a feather on a pillow of air, coordination in the first fiddles never seen before - it was wonderful. There were some such Mozartian moments! They played all repeats (frankly, was that necessary? The second movement goes on and on and on, with much of a muchness). They belted into the third movement, only to reign back hard for the trio start, before again.... 'and they're off' - race you to the end.

Mr Ziva had a funny little habit of turning round in the final beat of the piece, presenting the music to the audience. The first time, at the end of the Ravel, we were rather startled to see him grinning at us! At the end of the concert, they did a little encore of the last movement of the Mozart, slowed down dramatically, he turned around, and handed it over to the audience like a bouquet of flowers. What a charming gesture! The audience went wild - this was a well-deserved standing ovation.

When's he coming back?