Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Went to tonight's concert in the St Christopher Festival, looking forward to a Mozart piano concerto and the Schumann piano quintet, played by Vadim Kholodenko and the St Christopher Chamber Orchestra under Donatas Katkus.

In my seat looked at the programme - where was the Mozart? The first half had a Medtner piano sonata , and the Schumann was in the second half. I'd just had a whole evening of solo piano playing and am not that great a fan of a single guy in front of a joanna. Left and found the conductor who told me that when they started rehearsing the Mozart, they found that the orchestra had rehearsed one piano concerto (the wrong one) and the pianist another. Oh dear!

So off I went for a beer while Kholodenko played his sonata. I am told it is a beautiful sonata by yet another Russian composer. The Schumann I have heard three times now this year, reviewed here (one of those reviews calls it a 'quartet' by mistake....).

This was a different performance, not least because the string parts were played by a whole string orchestra, albeit with reduced numbers, and the piano was in front of the strings, which is not the normal arrangement. I was in front of the piano, close enough to mop the pianist's fevered brow.

I thought that here Kholodenko was much happier than two days ago. He really integrated well into the ensemble, with some absolutely sublime playing, and a beautiful lightness of touch. The piece does not call for soloistic piano playing and he did not deliver that, but just blended in really well. Particularly when they played the last movement as an encore, he really seemed to be enjoying himself.

The band played well, too, though the first theme of the first movement, which comes round again and again, could perhaps have benefited with a bit more variety. It was a shame that when the cellos had a theme in the same movement, it was blocked by the piano and did not sound as indulgent as it could have done. Similarly the viola solo in the second movement was probably only audible to me because I was listening out for it. If there's a piano on the stage, it blocks a good half of the orchestra. Not ideal.

But it was a great performance, and nice to see Kholodenko enjoying himself. Young Lukas Geniusas, the page turner, and a pianist himself, deserves a special mention. He is a gorgeous-looking young man with hair to die for, and had arms long enough not to have to get up at every turn. This way we could just enjoy looking at him!