Saturday, July 05, 2008

35 Litai?

Tendering a 20 Lt note for tonight's concert at the Paveiksliu Galerija, I was stunned to find that it cost 35 Lt, plus 2 Lt for bilietai.lt for the privilege of buying it. And then the lad had no change, so I nearly wasn't the 19th person in the audience. Yes, audience:performers = 4:1. And if you consider that each performer might have had two hangers-on....

But I mean, it was the Paveiksliu Galerija, a museum with a small room for concerts, and the group performing were not an established group (a quartet without a name) - 20 Lt would have been a slightly higher than adequate price. Then again, with 19 audience members, one needs to make the money one can, maybe. At least the applause sounded like more people....

The names meant nothing to me, but I recognised all the men (A Verbauskas, 2nd violin, D Misiunas, cello, and A Ziura, clarinet) as members of the National Symphony Orchestra - the ladies I had not spotted before (G Ziliukaite, 1st violin and D Valentaite, viola). I assume they are all part of the same band.

The programming, 'Musical Miniatures', was kind of odd. Not having a programme I got the impression that there were bits of everything. It was fairly easy and popular listening, lots of Mozart, Haydn, Dvorak (?) and Weber (?). I don't think any whole piece with all movements was played. There was the first movement of the Kleine Nachtmusik, three parts of a Mozart clarinet quintet, an extremely cheesy bit of Haydn (I think, I may have played it), a bit of a Dvorak quartet I decided (after contemplating Bloch - not exactly the same....), and finally a couple of movements of a romantic quintet which can only have been Weber, all bubbly clarinetty (wonder if I heard it in Tbilisi recently). Also I felt that at least two of the pieces were solo spots for the first violin; the viola had about 3 bars of interesting stuff or solo spots in the whole concert (two in Dvorak, one in Weber - unless that was repeated and there might have been another one).

Interestingly, I found the first violin the weakest element. Yes, she did shine out - which does not always happen. Particularly the first couple of pieces were smitted by nerves, I thought, with iffy intonation here and there and some glitches. As is quite common in this part of Europe, she used far too long bows for the Mozarts - at the one point where she used short bows appropriately, she went at her fiddle rather like a wood chopper. She settled down after a while, but always was a bit all over the place. In the Dvorak, though, it was interesting that her violin sounded almost like a viola (that's praise!), with a very rich, dark sound.

Verbauskas, the second violinist, must have had 'second violin' written on his head as a baby. I have never seen him play anything but second fiddle (though has he, on occasion helped out in the first fiddles in the Filharmonija?). He lead the second violin section in the St Christopher Orchestra and knows what needs to be done. He's an extremely experienced ensemble player and, and today's showing, an excellent team member - he came completely into his own in this concert. The violist, D Valentaite, was hiding behind her music stand, and did thousands of quavers and semiquavers, all very reliably. And Misiunas laid a very solid foundation for the whole programme, thoroughly supporting the band.

The soloist, A Ziura, who I had only seen play the bass clarinet in a concert broadcast in the afternoon (and who exactly was that person hanging over the balcony rail in the audience - could it have been me?) did very well. I thought that in one of his pieces (was it the Weber?) his phrasing could have been a bit more elastic, to add a little suspense and surprise here and there. The Mozart quintet sounded much more together all round, as if it had been rehearsed quite a lot. But generally the ensemble playing was excellent. It's great to see the string players come out of the safety of their groups!