Monday, October 13, 2008

The Lithuanian Chamber orchestra (almost) at its best!

Apart from the programming soup (neither the programme nor the pre-concert announcement matched the order in which the pieces were played) and the conductor's, Georg Mais, wardrobe malfunction (luggage went missing? Black open-necked shirt, street shoes needing a clean, dark blue [or black? - I find it hard to tell those colours apart] lounge suit, or possibly different jacket and trousers) it was a great concert for the chamber orchestra last night.

Starting with Schubert's 8th overture (which according to the programme should have been Smetana's Quartet No 1, but actually, the sound of Smetana is unmistakable) this had some strange divisions in the violas - sometimes the leader had a solo, sometimes the lone guy in the second row - could not work that one out.  It went well, as did the Mendelssohn 8th string symphony which followed it, in which the violas also had major solo spots. Alas, whisper it, these were a bit lacklustre - I hate to say it - the notes were right, but they were just played, without much emotion. The first violins were at their very best, with lots of zip and zest and energy - this was great.

Nurit Stark joined the orchestra for Schubert's Rondo in A major for violin and strings; this is a lovely piece and she and the orchestra were having a lot of fun with it. I did not care that much for her use of the open e-string just after the beginning, and somewhere else - not sure if that is entirely Schubertian, or was she trying to be historically correct? Our view of what is Schubertian is probably formed by lots of romantic performances....There were a few glitches in terms of attack, but it was a lovely performance. For an encore she played a Mobile by (?) Kuzmin (?), a modern piece involving lots of fast runs up and down the violin, but in two voices, running in parallel or towards each other, with a hair-raising set of runs in harmonics at the end. Amazing stuff!

Finally we had Smetana's quartet 'From my Homeland'. A familiar, and beautiful piece (research topic - nationalism in music). Again the violas had a major input, and again it lacked bite, particularly in the second movement motif which could have been more aggressive. The other instruments, picking it up, did better at it (though at one moment the cellos sounded too beautiful). But overall it was again an energetic and very lively performance. Well-done the chamber orchestra.