Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Put the frigging piano lid down!

...was my first reaction in tonight's concert of the Valstybinis Vilniaus Kvartetas (VVK - State Vilnius Quartet) with Edvinas Minkstimas on the piano.

I've got ambivalent feelings about the VVK which still rests its laurels on a 1972 Belgian prize, a generation on and after a 50% change in personnel. They've got a few Lithuanian prizes, too, in recent years, but anyone does who's around long enough. There have been some very, very iffy concerts in the past.

As usual, I thought, the first fiddle sounded weak and the cellist had his narcoleptic attacks, into which he collapses as soon as he has finished a phrase. Could hardly hear them over the piano in Saint-Saens' piano quintet op 14. But something happened! In the third movement the group suddenly got going and began to sound much better, stronger and far more effective. Something's happened to the first violinist - her bow arm is much stronger and straighter than it used to be for many previous years. That's interesting. In the second movement the pianist pearled some raindrops like hail on a tin roof - then realised it, clapped his hand to his mouth, and the remaining raindrops just drifted down. His repeat of the final movement's theme was so smooth, it was to die for.

In the Brahms quintet op 34 the balance was much better. For some reason I knew the third movement very well, but not the others. Again the second movement had some beautiful moments, and the power that went into the final two movements had to be seen to be believed. I would not have believed it, had I not been there. Suddenly the quartet was rejuvenated and almost overpowered the pianist.

At the beginning of the concert I was going to plead for personnel changes in the VVK, but if they can keep up the strength of the end of the concert - keep going, guys!