Sunday, October 05, 2008

Something funny about baroque trumpet concertos?

Last night saw the opening of the winter season at the Filharmonija - at last! Unusually it was the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra who opened the season, rather than the National Symphony Orchestra. Unusually, too, the hall was packed and furthermore unusually, the soloist was a trumpeter, Andrei Kavalinski from Belgium(?), playing at least 2, if not three different sizes of trumpet. Usually the soloists tend to be string players or pianists.  Nicholas Cleobury from the UK conducted - can't say I had heard of him before.

The programme covered baroque, classical and romantic music, with Albinoni's trumpet sonata in C major and Torelli's (well-known) trumpet concerto in D major at the baroque end. I'm not that keen on baroque sonatas, given that they have two slow (and often not very interesting movements), and start slowly. But here we were, and the sonata's first movement ended almost before it had begun.  In both pieces the trumpet did not play during the slow movements!  I wondered about this, and whether it had something to do with the trumpet technology at the time the pieces were written. At that time trumpets did not have valves, and could not easily do chromatic stuff - which might have been necessary to add ornamentations to a line which might not have been very interesting without them.  The fast movements were fine, though I thought the phrasing was a bit gappy in the Torelli; it could have been more joined-up.  The final trumpet piece, a 19th century concerto by Amilcare Ponchielli had been written for trumpet and wind (brass?) band, and was arranged for trumpet and strings instead. Musically, it was icecream music; fairly cheesy stuff for the accompanying strings. Not convinced that the transcription was entirely successful, either. Reminded me of Paganini's 'Sonata per la Gran Viola' for viola and strings, where the accompanying band just adds background to the soloist going crazy. This Kavalinski did, with gusto - it was clear that this kind of stuff was more his comfort zone - it was brilliant.

The other two pieces in the programme were a Haydn symphony (43) and a Mozart symphony (29), interspersing the trumpet pieces. It's odd to hear symphonies in the middle of solos! The Haydn was ok; the ensemble was slightly ragged at times, and there were quite a few moments where there should have been a general pause - tension building and building - but they played almost straight on. This may also have been the fault of the audience who, during the first half of the concert, applauded rather too often. Someone commented to me on that during the interval, but on the other hand they come and pay, and they will learn. And they had learnt by the second half of the concert.

The Mozart, on the other hand, got a blistering performance by the orchestra. Taken at breakneck speed, even the slower second movement, it was edge of seats stuff - and the orchestra coped well. Cleobury seems like a nice and energetic guy, full of smiles. Does not do this orchestra any harm.