Sunday, January 25, 2009

Forward Planning

It was good that at the Filharmonija last night the Brahms violin concerto was placed at the end of the concert, with two unknown works before the interval. Stops the audience from running away....

It was the Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra, under their conductor, the talented Modestas Pitrenas, with Pavel Berman, now living in Italy, as the soloist.

The programme, as often happens in the Filharmonija, was a bit of a mess, with the first two pieces played back to front, compared to the programme text. It was even more confusing since the piece by Alvydas Malcys, a living Lithuanian composer (and where was he?) 'Games according to MozART' had a distinctly South American sound - with South American rhythms and I could have sworn some bits of familiar South American melody as well. There were tiny hints of Mozartian motifs. The conductor could have brought out the rhythms more, and frankly, the winds, who had another motif, were a mess.

The confusion arose because the second composer was the Brazilian Villa Lobos, with his sinfonietta in the memory of Mozart, composed in 1916. This had no South American flavour whatsoever! It was an ok piece - though the cellos, who had a lovely solo at the end of the second movement, totally lacked confidence, and eventually were all together, but every start of this motif was made by one cello with the others joining hesitantly. Shame, that.

Finally Berman joined the band for Brahms' violin concerto, which I love.  He played this beautifully, and there we had also a lovely oboe solo in the second movement. The final movement was interesting - he played it very roughly, the way I like it (almost excessively roughly at the end, but with lots of spirit). Weird though that he always started the main motif (second note) with a down bow, where I would have expected an upbow - I could not look at this after the first hearing!
As an encore he gave some lovely polyphonic Bach, played beautifully and lightly, with little vibrato - the way I like my Bach. That was wonderful!

The Kaunas orchestra could do with some more polish, but I hope it will get there. Interesting how many women there were in the winds - and there was a female percussionist, too. This is not so usual in Lithuanian orchestras.