Wednesday, December 31, 2008


First concert last night since I don't know when. Was away a lot and some of the Filharmonija offerings were not that interesting.

So it was the Camerata Klaipeda with their leader/founder Vilhelmas Cepinskas, the pianist Guoda Gedvilaite, and the violinist (and leader both of the Camerata Klaipeda and the Kremerata Baltica) Dzeraldas Bidva, with a light to middling programme.  The Camerata Klaipeda is a very young orchestra, with very few, if any, players older than 30. It generally plays without a conductor, though if Cepinskas plays the solo, he makes some attempts at conducting. Otherwise Bidva leads it, very ably indeed.

It started with Chausson's concerto for violin, piano and string quartet, arranged for string orchestra. This is one of those French pieces which I hate, very melancholic, with not that many ideas, going no-where in particular. The first movement was called 'décidé'; the music might have been with that one motif, but it did not really come across. Quite often I could not hear the violin soloist over the rather metallic-sounding piano. The piece filled the first half completely, and I was glad when it was over. And contemplated going home.

But I am glad I did not!  The second half was rather a mixed bag; starting with Chopin's Andante spianato and Grand Polonaise, arranged (?) for piano and the orchestra, who occasionally threw in a few chords. Seemed a bit of a pointless arrangement. The Chopin could have been played with a few more rubatos - it was played rather strictly according to the beat.

This was followed by Ysaye's short symphonic poem 'Exile' (apparently he spent part of the first world war in London), written only for violins and violas. The viola leader had a wonderful tone and lots of interesting passages. The piece was all right.

Then we had Paganini's 9th and 24th caprices, arranged for string orchestra. A cynical soul might say - so it takes a whole band to play this solo violin piece? The first arrangement worked better, I thought, though the second one had a few rather funky moments. 

Gershwin's two pieces for two violins and string orchestra, arranged by Bidva and played by himself and Cepinskas, plus the bassist in the front row, were wonderful. The two soloists had a lot of fun and Cepinskas in particular was really good at the jazzy sounds (he said something about Grapelli when talking about this piece).

Finally they played a Moldovan dance, 'Hora' with some awesome fiddling by Cepinskas, and a small tete-a-tete with a young female violinist, as part of the dance's story.

And of course encore after encore, all quite funny. The band really plays with loads of energy and enthusiasm. I was trying to compare them in my mind with the Lithuanian chamber orchestra - and failed to do so. I hope the Camerata Klaipeda gets lots of engagements at home and abroad.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Season ticket for the Berlin Philharmonic!

You may be thinking - has he come into money? Is he going to fly to Berlin for every concert? Has he moved to Berlin??

Nothing of the sort! I've bought a season ticket for the digital concert hall, which will transmit every Berlin Phil concert via the internet, live, and it can be watched on the computer, or linked to the stereo, or whatever. Complete with closeups of conductors, soloists, you name it. Brilliant or what?

Now all I need to work out is how to wire up everything to avoid having to peer down my laptop.

Sod's law of course suggests that I will be in some country with poor internet connections....


Monday, December 22, 2008

Brinkmanship or a real danger?

Here the Baltic Times reports that following the proposed budget cuts in the state's austerity budget responding to the economic crisis, the Vilnius Capital of Culture may, er, not happen.

This is the new government under Mr Kubilius, the conservative prime minister, who I have seen in at least one concert (before his temporary corruption-related downfall), and maybe even in two, in the nearly 8 years I have lived in Vilnius. The proposed cut is 50% of the year of culture funding (total state funding was supposed to be 40 million LTL or about 11.7m Euros, not exactly major stuff).

It seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face; I don't want to repeat the figure, which I have repeated ad nauseam, about the economic impact of the Edinburgh Festival on the economy of that city - where it brings in many times what is spent in subsidies. If the year of culture crashes, it will be such an embarassment! Surely it is an investment into the future popularity of Vilnius and Lithuania as a tourism destination, and goodness knows when the chance will come round again.

But maybe people are playing political games. Let's hope so. The organisers of the Heifetz violin competition to take place between 9 and 15 January must be having hysterics at the moment.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Lessons learnt...

1. Get thee to the Filharmonija on time!  On Wednesday, the evening of my return, I thought I had left the house early enough to slide across the ice to the Filharmonija - but got there, it seems, too late. 19.03 their time, 18.58 on my watch - and the computers were off and no ticket could be sold (even though the lady was still tidying up her cash desk). Are those computers shut off centrally on the stroke of 7 pm?

2. Check the programme. So last night I togged myself up and wandered over to the Filharmonija for the usual Saturday night concert, not knowing what was going to be played, but ready for a surprise. This I did get - just as the box office lady was about to print out a ticket I clocked the words 'Frank Zappa' on the concert heading. 'Nej tak' as the Swedes said to atomic energy.  Another nice evening stroll.

Add to that tonight - the Filharmonija's booklet mentioned a chamber music concert, not one I would have wanted to rush to for a pressing need, more for a sense of duty.  But something stirred in my memory - last night I had not seen any posters for this concert in the box office. I checked the website - right enough, the concert is cancelled.

You need to watch them like a hawk!


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Worthy of Agatha Christie!

In the venerable, though perhaps not as venerated as it was once, Burgtheater of Vienna, the show must go on... even after an actor cut his throat on stage!

It was part of Schiller's Mary Stuart, when the actor, Daniel Hoevels, had to act a suicide on stage. Unfortunately it was a real knife that came to his hands, not a safe prop knife. The audience applauded the very realistic (and very real) gush of blood, only realising that something had gone wrong when he did not get up for his applause.

Was it an accident? Was it planned? The busy criminologists of Vienna are on the case. Read all about it here.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dip Mus (Open)

Passed my second music course - not as well as I had hoped, but only 3% got the top mark. So that's ok. Now I gather I could use the above letters after my name, should I be so inclined....(I'm not).


Monday, December 08, 2008

How to take care of your violin....

as they do in Australia, reported here..


Sunday, December 07, 2008

Colonic Irrigation!

Noooo, not mine!

Jackie Kay, it seems, has written a wonderful poem about Maw Broon and her new health kick. See here. Glad it's the top story in Scotland on Sunday today.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Geringas sick?

According to Lietuvas Rytas, David Geringas has cancelled a couple of concerts in Vilnius due to sickness. Let's hope it's something trivial and that he will get better soon. (A few years ago he did play a concert just after having some bug, and it was not so good. Probably made the right decision).

The replacement in the State Symphony Orchestra's concert on Friday is young Lukas Geniusas, the pianist. Not sure about that....