Saturday, May 10, 2008

I never thought I would say this

...the final in the European Young Musician of the Year in Austria was an absolutely vomit-inducing, dreadful, dreadful presentation. Never thought Austria had this in it!

So it was in the Stadtpark, between the Burgtheater and the Rathaus, outdoors, with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra conducted by Alexander Markovic (who has conducted in Vilnius, before my blogging days, or when I was away - recently). Presenters were some guy and Lidia Baich, who has played the Prokofiev violin concerto in Vilnius - quite interestingly, but there's something funny about her style. She presents well, though....both in clothes and as a moderator.

Then at the side of the stage there was some jazz band with a crazed fiddler who play the soloists down for their party pieces. What's the point of that? The soloists shot on the stage down some stairs on the left, no handshakes, played their piece, no handshakes, and rushed off to the right. They were stood about 50 cms below the orchestra, a long way from the band leader and the conductor - and the cellists had to sit! Of the 16 people who came to Vienna, 7 made it to the final. Strange mixture of instruments - saxophone from Slovenia (or is it Slovakia), cello from Yekaterinburg in Russia (which I heard yesterday is the most corrupt city over there), a harmonica player from the UK, a pianist from Finland....Because there were 7 finalists, each only played one movement. It ain't like it used to be, when four or five of them played whole concertos! The jury was mainly Austria-based, with a few Brits. Interestingly, all the finalists were from edge-of-Europe countries, leaving a yawning hole in the centre. During the jury deliberations - please dear God, let them finish soon - there were a variety of singers including the Vienna Boys' choir hoofing it up with semi-popular music....Vienna, you should be ashamed of yourself!

Given some of the more obscure instruments, some of the music was a bit weak. The saxophonist, Jan Grigac, played a Pequena Czardas by someone; it was ok; he suffered from being the first, and was a bit stiff. Then Russian Anastasia Kobekina, aged 13, ran down the stairs in a long skirt, carrying her cello (IS SHE CRAZY????? WHAT SORT OF A STUNT IS THIS??), and played the first movement of one of the Haydn concertos most peculiarly. It would have been fine had she concentrated on the music, but every time she felt the camera on her, her eyes swivelled towards it and her mouth broke into a rictus grin. Her grins and faces were totally inappropriate to the music. Gee, I love when musicians communicate to the audience - but it would be useful for the communication and the music to be connected in some way. Did not help that you could almost not hear the cello - some technical problems, I think. It was total Russian sugar and spice - had she been a boy I am sure he would have worn a frilly shirt.

Then a black young Brit called Philip Achille played a harmonica concerto by someone; nice representation of diversity in music. He studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London (let no-one look down at the Harmonica). He also was actually musical and engaged with his little instrument. Interesting.

The Finn Roope Groendahl (from the west of the country?) played a movement of a famous romantic piano concerto (missed that, was blogging). Then, for the sake of the interval, Ms Baich whipped out her fiddle and played something. Missed that, too.

This was followed by Dionysios Gramenos from Greece playing the fourth movement of Francaix' clarinet concerto. It starts very explosively - clearly adjoining the third movement - but here felt like starting with a dive from a 10 m board. He was good, though! His eyes did not seem to connect to anything, but his music was great.

The (also black) Dutch cellist Steven Bourne played Faure's 'Elegie' - a deceptively simple piece, but one that might sort the virtuosos from the musicians. It hung a bit in the middle, but generally was all right. Finally the Norwegian Eldbjorg Hemsing played Waxman's Carmen Fantasy - she was very powerful and very good; and of course playing a popular piece at the end of a competition, which includes a popular vote, too..... difficult.

I think Ms Hemsing will get the public prize; of those I did not miss I would have her, the Greek and the Brit as the three prizewinners, in that order.....

.....I was right about the public prize winner, Ms Hemsing, who went on to get third prize overall (she seemed a bit shocked by that), Roope Groendahl got second prize, and Dionysios Gramenos got a very well deserved first. Interestingly, the 9 semi-finalists also were mainly from Eastern Europe, with a Japanese (?) from Germany, a Korean (?) from Austria, a person with a Lithuanian name from Sweden....plus one from Cyprus. Who says classical music in Europe is not multi-ethnic?

It finished with them all waltzing to the Blue Danube - everyone. I'm sure I will stop throwing up soon. Must check whether my Viennese music agent friend had anything to do with this....


Anni said...

Well it will be interesting to see what you make of the BBC version of Young Musician - the winner was a 12 year old trombonist but with the mish mash of presentation from the Beeb this year it was really difficult to make a half-decent assessment of whether this boy really matched the others - except fr the wow factor of being 12. The BBC YMOTY message board is packed with criticsm of the 'Big borther goes on Fcebook' syle of programme but the full performances are on R3 tonight so may see if that tells us more.

Newcastle Uni Sinfonietta did us proud on Saturday evening - Classical Symphony was a little nervous to start but the Lark Ascending was magical on a hot (yes hot) May evening in a packed church. Ed Cross, the leader of all the orchestras at the uni, and of the Hadrian quartet in which my daughter plays, and PhD student of performances of late romantic violin works was magical. They concluded with Beethoven 7. Not a bad effort for the middle of the exam season!

So good to meet you and thankyou for a lovely evening last week. Off to Sheffield's Music in the Round festva tonight - it's a celebration of the last 25 years and tonight is 'The Russians' including Robin Ireland and the Shostakovitch viola sonata.