Monday, November 17, 2008

Silk isn't as smooth as this!

Håkan Rosengren's clarinet sound, that is. It's just, wow! A totally seamless transition from nothing to pianiss-issimo to louder - the clarinet was just breathing! No strident notes here.

On Saturday night he was playing two (too short) pieces in the Filharmonija with the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra in a programme of French and Swedish music, conducted by the talented Robertas Servenikas.

Started with a very nice Rhapsody by Debussy (you know me, I was not much of a Debussy fan) which gave the impression of 'a month in the country'. Beautiful, melodic, not just shimmering stuff like you would normally expect from Debussy. This site suggests that by the time Debussy wrote it, he had 'outgrown his youthful rebelliousness' - I'd say. A very pleasant piece, sounding quite romantic, and very beautifully played indeed.

Ernest Chausson's, no, not the Poème for once, symphony in B-major followed, starting with what sounded like a church hymn; heavy brass, large orchestra sound, as the French liked it during that period (think Berlioz).  It was its first performance in Lithuania; the violas had some lovely moments, as they had done last week - they really are lucky in getting music like this. So did the cellos, but they did not produce the viola group's lushness. (I noticed a new cellist in the group - Ruta from the St Christopher Orchestra - is she subbing or did she need a change?).

Rosengren joined the reduced orchestra again for Martin Willert's piece 'Hallucination', written in 2003 - and the Swedish composer was in the audience. It seemed tailor-made for Rosengren's soft, gentle sound, making huge demands on his technical skills - how does he do that, playing two notes at once (one a kind of harmonic, presumably)? Overall, it was a very slow piece and the 3 movements played as one kind of blended into each other, so it was finished kind of before it had begun (probably lasted 10 - 15 minutes).

Finally Hugo Alfvén's Swedish Rhapsody No 3. He lived from 1872 to 1960; this piece was written in 1931, but clearly Schoenberg had passed him by; it is thoroughly romantic in style.  I sometimes wonder if countries that do not have wars or internal conflict produce more peaceful music. Adorno might agree with me, I think. This piece was a bit like  Grieg's Holberg suite with lots of folk melodies, but played in one movement; with some  'grotesk' moments, it says in the programme notes. I did notice something like a donkey braying - midsummer night's dream memory? Also that a sopranino saxophone plays a solo at the beginning and end. Did not notice that one, but did notice how beautifully and lightly the violins played - they got it just right.