Sunday, October 12, 2008

How would Rakhmaninov have played it?

Last night's concert at the Filharmonija featured Rakhmaninov's third piano concerto and Shosty's 8th symphony (the latter I missed due to a birthday dinner - not mine).

It was preceded by a Filharmonija club meeting. The club is a group of Filharmonija aficionados who get a talk and a wee glass of wine before the concert, and drinks with the artists after the concert. For a price. For which you do not get reduced price tickets to the concerts.

Anyway, the meeting started with a bit of Gershwin music played by Povilas Jaraminas, showing the photos of the most recent club picnic, which I would have loved to have been at, but  had to rush off to Georgia that day.  Looked like it had been fun. This was followed by the talented Agne Keblyte, aged about 14 (?), naturally with long blonde hair like all harpists, playing a romantic theme and variation on the harp, and very well, too; totally in control, with nice dynamic contrasts, clear identification of melody lines and so on.

Finally the conductor, Christian Knapp (who seemed to speak fluent Russian) and the pianist, Vadim Rudenko, appeared for the ritual interview. Alas, and unfortunately like many Filharmonija interviews in this scenario, it was a total 'Dame Edna' interview. The interviewer talked and talked, perhaps very amusingly, showing off knowledge and information - but the interviewees barely got a word in edgeways. Not the way one should interview people.

The piano concerto, a thoroughly romantic piece, was a fitting beginning for this year's season of the National Symphony Orchestra. Rudenko played in a very relaxed way, but also totally in control; the conductor and orchestra responded well to his rubatos; the ending brought the house down. I was wondering if the tempo of the slow movement was slow enough - there seemed little difference to the first movement.I also felt sorry for the trumpets and trombones, who got to play a little in the final bars of the piece, but otherwise were just sitting around.  I also wondered how Rakhmaninov would have played it - this year I have listened to some of his recordings, which are early-20th century, with very free treatments of rhythms, arpeggiated chords etc. But if anyone now plays a piece like that, even Rakhmaninov's own, they would be laughed out of the hall. Makes you wonder what sound Rakhmaninov had in his head when he wrote his music.