Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Gia Kancheli Dice Game

As part of the Heifetz competition celebration, last night the Kremerata Baltica played at the Filharmonija, prior to their tour of Germany, their usual programme of fairly contemporary music (but it was all very listenable-to).

These days the Kremerata, unless Kremer is the soloist, plays without a conductor, but is very ably led by the leader Dzeraldas Bidva, or his blonde female stand partner (they change seats a lot).  This is somewhat surprising, given Kremer's comments in one of his books on the Orpheus Orchestra, which always plays without a conductor - at that time he definitely disapproved of this process. Times change, people change.

They started with Arvo Pärt's Passacaglia, with Kremer as the soloist. A nice piece, effectively played. This was followed by Penderecki's Chaconne from the 'Polish Requiem', played by the orchestra only. Also very good. Then followed Kancheli's 'Silent Prayer' (well, it was a concert in memory of Heifetz, though he did not live to hear most of these pieces), written for Kremer's 60th and Rostropovich's 80th birthday. I wonder if Rostropovich ever played it - he died shortly afterwards. Here the cellist was the Lithuanian Giedre Dirvanauskaite.  I am extremely fond of Kancheli's music. But having heard a lot of it, also in the Rustaveli Theatre in Tbilisi, where he is the music director, I am beginning to think that he tends to stick to the same motifs over and over again. There was the familiar 'eeeoh, eeoh, eeeoh' for example, which brought to the mind an actress keening over a dead body or some other sadness.  Reminds me of Mozart's dice game where you roll dice, get a bar for each number, and still end up with a minuet. There was the extremely high violin line. Interestingly, there was also a singer, but on tape - I could not work out the language, but it might have been Georgian - which would explain the need for the tape. I wonder who she was. It was a lovely piece.

After the interval we had Georgs Pelecis (Latvian??) 'Zydintis jazminas' (something to do with jasmine). Kind of lighter music, with one main theme that appeared over and over again. It was written for violin and vibraphone, played by Kremer's favourite percussionist, Andrei Pushkarev. I never thought that an instrument you hit with a stick could be played with so much emotion. It was a wonderful performance, but a bit light for my taste. Would have thought that well-marketed it could make quite a lot of money....

Raminta Serksnyte's 'De profundis' followed. I had expected anything called 'de profundis' to be a very solemn, dark piece - but this was quite bright, fast, energetic - and very listenable-to. Played with lots of energy and enthusiasm.

Finally we had Gliere's Octet, in a string orchestra version. At the beginning it sounded a bit of a mogre (Scottish technical term), but after a while it settled down. Pretty much romantic music, with lots of folksy elements. A sign of its time, I suppose.  It was very pleasant. For those who wish to know, Gliere was trained by Tanayev and Ippolitov-Ivanov in Moscow.

This was the end of the concert. But of course the maestro had to return to the stage, and he did, with an encore of a Liszt waltz. He played this beautifully and lightly, so lightly that I thought on occasion he missed a string in double-stopping.

The Kremerata is a strange beast; they play lots of music where the ink is still almost wet, but it is always very accessible, leaning slightly towards the light side. Maybe that's the secret of their success?