Sunday, May 11, 2008

Style in every way!

As a privileged member of the Filharmonija Klubas (cost 100 Lt per year, as much wine as you can get to at post-concert receptions, though you have to buy the concert ticket, too) I was in a select group hearing the delectable Liora Grodnikaite sing in the club meeting before the evening's concert. It was just a couple of pieces, both French - she seems to be into French music these days, having done a whole concert of them recently. Once was from Offenbach's 'Orpheus in the underworld', the other the habanera from 'Carmen' (the club is not meant to be heavy....). I was amazed by the habanera - there was a moment when she paused so long ....that a less informed audience would have broken into applause.....but we were clinging to the edge of our seats waiting to see what would happen next. Amazing!

The weak moment of the club meeting was the interview with the violin soloist, Antal Szalai, via a summarising translation. The first question was about what education influenced him most in his playing, and the second about his favourite pieces. Both got lengthy answers from Szalai, and a short 'Brahms and Tchaikovsky' (2nd question) in the translation. Bit of a pointless interview, but we got a look at him.

In the concert he played one of his favourite concertos, Brahms, on his Strad. He makes a beautiful, stunning sound (though I sat almost directly above him and was closer to his sound waves than most people), and everything was almost spot on. He seems to be much into very lush bowing, and there were some moments, both in the first movement, and the opening of the third movement, when I would have preferred a grittier attack to provide some variety (like my gold standard Gyorgy Pauk who really goes at it with Hungarian fire), but overall it was a very well controlled and beautiful produced performance. As an encore he played the Adagio and Fugue of the Bach g-minor suite. Somewhere between a romantic approach and a historically informed approach, but with the fugue voices beautifully distinguished (though I did think that a Strad does not deserve anything but a perfect performance). The only thing many of us wondered about was his concert attire. He is quite well-built, and was wearing, it would appear a waistcoat under what looked like a kneelength overcoat, making him look extremely stylish and a bit like he should have been around 100 years ago. He must have been sweltering!

The second half was Holst's planets. I was convinced I had played them, but am not so sure now - much of it seemed quite unfamiliar, and it was not the interpretation. It is more likely that I played them on the viola than on the violin, I think, but I wonder if my orchestra played this at a time when I was already starting to work abroad.

Anyway. Apparently the orchestra had been meant to play it 5 years ago, but could not get hold of the music then (it may be rental-only music). So this was its first experience of the piece. I was surprised - it went well, so much better than some of the routine stuff they dig out regularly. Like someone made a real effort to get into it. Congratulations, Mr Domarkas. The opening 'col legno' was really impressive, they got all the lush bits of tunes, the percussion was good (occasionally a bit all over the place, but good, generally), there was a bit of iffy flute playing, but not too much iffiness (and I see an alto flute was used, too, with the same player also playing the piccolo and the normal flute)...And then, at the end, the ladies of the Kaunas State Choir came along to add their ethereal voices to the last page of the piece....At least there were no words to learn, but, once again sitting almost in the choir, I realised how incredibly difficult it must be to sing more and more quietly and fade away.

It was a great end to the season. Next week we'll have the chamber orchestra and then ....we have to wait for the Vilnius Festival and its eclectic mix of performances.