Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Comparing cellists

Is it fair to compare young Povilas Jacunskas, sitting (literally) his cello MA exam today with the likes of Aner Bylsma, Jacqeline Du Pre and Misha Maisky? Maybe it ain't, but we need to aim high, don't we.

Povilas started with the 4th Bach suite for cello solo. Generally this was ok in an Eastern European sort of way (he would not have got away with anything else given his examining board), though at times the phrases tended to run into each other. The Courante was more a sprint-ante, and at the end there were a couple of serious memory lapses, from which he recovered, just. It's so easy to take your eye off the road for a minute, and before you know it, you've gone round the wrong corner. Listening to Aner Bylsma's recording just now, two things strike me: Bylsma, a historic performance specialist, plays it much more funkily, feistily, but, like Jacunskas, he adds unwritten music - in the case of Bylsma it is the percussion of slapping his fingers on the fingerboard (he no longer plays due to injury....), in the case of Jacunskas it was his very, very noisy breathing. Get that looked at!

His second piece was Bruch's Kol Nidrei, for which my gold standard is Maisky's performance at the Vilnius Festival about 4 years ago. Sobbing stuff that was! Jacunskas did well; there were some beautiful little phrases. The ending was absolutely sublime and the audience sat there, stunned. Jacqueline Du Pre's recording, on the other hand, heard as background in one of those films about her, sounds rather pedestrian (as, for that matter, does her Haydn - I caught it on my Ipod, and wondered 'who played that so slowly?' Interesting how times change). Jacunskas seems to have more of an understanding of this than Du Pre (whisper it) who might have played it at the same age, but then he will have had the advantage of hearing Maisky play it.

He finished his long recital with Prokofiev's Symphony-concerto for cello and orchestra, op 125. I'm listening to Misha Maisky as I write. It must be easier to play it very beautifully with an orchestra and lots of different sound colours, rather than a loud piano being hit rather hard by Indre Baikstyte, Jacunskas' Fortvio partner. Maisky makes a very very beautiful sound throughout. I have to say, though, that in places I preferred Jacunskas' youthful and rather rough approach - he did some wonderful things with his bow - his technique there is very impressive. Maisky's playing sounds less effortful, but then Maisky had by the time of the recording in about 2001 done a bit more living and playing than Jacunskas. Some of the phrases come out better with Maisky than Jacunskas, probably again because he only imitates the piano and not woodwind, or groups of strings. I see that both have a little trouble with intonation in the last movement (I'd hate to have to play that piano part!).

This was the last of the string Masters' performances at the Lithuanian music academy (I missed all others, what with being away); I hear, from a very, VERY, authoritative source that they were all very impressive. Welldone!


Anonymous said...

Hi, "violainvilnius"!
My wholehearted congratulations on Vilnius being chosen the Cultural Capital of

Europe 2009!
Mind you, do not scold your fellow Lithuanian musicians too much: there's a lot

in your playing, and teaching, that West (and e.g. Far East) could learn from.

It's only that music community in Central and Eastern Europe (still) grants the

West the powers to be the source and the assessor of music quality - and that

approach, on bigger part, has been false, as it's quite baseless. (When will we learn?)
Pavel (Polish), Canada