Friday, October 10, 2008

What happened?

Strange St Christopher's Orchestra concert last night. Usually the band bounces with energy, but last night it was somewhat listless, almost uninspired. 

It was the closing concert of the Latin American culture days, though only one of the pieces performed was written by a Latin American (Villa-Lobos), with the other pieces by Spanish composers. All, although 20th century music, were relatively conventional pieces - not a 12-tone between them.

Starting with the Bachianas Brazilieros (no 9), a pure string piece, and a wonderful solo by the viola section. This was a very sentimental piece, without many of the rhythms associated with music of that continent. They played nicely, but lacked zing. Turina's 'Torero malda' ('malda' is a Lithuanian word, not in my dictionary) ditto.

Then we had Rodrigo's 'Concierto Andaluz' for 4 guitars and orchestra, with the Baltic guitar quartet (which recently gave masterclasses in Iserlohn, Germany) as the soloists. It went better, though I thought some of the orchestra was particularly hesitant in the accompaniment (first violins). Did the trumpet sound flat? The quartet played well, and I have rarely heard a descending scale played with as much feeling as in the second movement of this piece. I kept looking for the little footrests that guitarists use, but I see they had the guitar equivalent of a violinist's shoulder rest screwed onto their instruments (a leg rest?) - a heavy-duty metal affair - do guitars tolerate this interference with their body more than violins? Here the guitars were amplified which was an improvement on the previous evening's unamplified baroque guitars.

The final piece was De Falla's 'Nights in the gardens of Spain', with the delightful Vadym Cholodenko as soloist (his third concert in Vilnius in three months). He played wonderfully, and the orchestra followed him obediently. I was not convinced of the piano line in the composition - much of it,with lots of right-hand playing only, sounded as if it should be played on guitar, but it seems it really was written for piano.

The amount of applause matched my conviction about this concert. Apparently it was being recorded - for commercial release? I would be very interested to read reviews of this recording. Bit of a shame, really - the orchestra can do so much better.