Friday, March 21, 2008

Te Martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus - and the heather is still damp

(translated, somewhat iffily, as 'the noble army of martyrs praise thee' from the Te Deum). It ain't muslim martyrs we are talking about, for once.

Tonight's noble army of martyrs was sitting in the audience, unless they were the Kaunas State Choir, who sounded as if they had walked all the 100 km to the Vilnius Congress Palace. Tired or what?

But anyway. Tonight's concert by the Lithuanian State (Not National) Symphony Orchestra was extremely unusual in that it was conducted by Juozas Domarkas of the Lithuanian National (Not State) Symphony Orchestra. I never thought that would happen - nor did anyone else. But it's time they started collaborating in advance of the 2009 European Capital of Culture year.

It was all Berlioz. Whose idea was it to programme 3 overtures all after each other? That really did not work Could they not have dropped two and done Harold in Italy instead? Interesting scoring for Benvenuto Cellini, with a bass clarinet and 5 percussionists, including two timpanists almost falling over each other. Pavelas Giunteris, the best percussionist in Vilnius, used a most fetching pair of red-headed drum sticks. Despite all that, the heather was not set alight, though - very pedestrian performances. I noticed talented Povilas Jacunskas was leading the cello section; he did so well in the Fortvio concert on the weekend, but it seems he still needs to get the hang of leading a group. At least he was confident on the notes.

Berlioz Te Deum in the second half of the concert was dull, to put it mildly. At one point I measured the distance from my seat to either end of the row, but it was too far to walk out. Dull, dreary, dreadful, deadly.

I see the piece is scored for huge forces, with two choirs, a children's choir, and a vast range of instruments, including 12 harps (not in the choral sections). I doubt we have twelve harps in Lithuania, never mind twelve harpists. This was a bit of a shoe-string production then, what with apparently only two flutes instead of four, no harps, a Korg 'church organ', and the rest of the band. To be fair, I see that three of the movements are described as 'Prière', which I suppose means 'Prayer' and perhaps they should be sung quietly and without excitement. But it's a fifty minute piece, without drama or development. Can't exactly say that Berlioz was ahead of his time and link him to folk like Morton Feldman, who wrote extremely slow-moving, contemplative music. Not with forces like this. Lord, spare me from this one.

Would not recommend going to the Congress Palace in the next week or so. They are putting on the Magic Flute (in a concert hall); seems to be a staged performance what with all the building gear lying around, and the main entrances into the auditorium blocked off for the public. How does the fire police allow this?