Friday, January 09, 2009

Young talents

Tonight's concert at the Filharmonija was not only the first concert of Vilnius, European Capital of Culture, but also the opening event of the third Jascha Heifetz violin competition. Organised together with the European Music Competitions for Youth organisation it featured four young violinists playing with the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra under Neil Thompson.

It started with Mozart's 17th symphony, played in a rather historically informed style. The second movement could have been considerably lusher, I thought (it should be a bit cheesy), and the horns had some iffy moments. It was standard fare for the chamber orchestra, with the basses doing their best to hang in with the cellos (same, rather complex, line).

The first soloist was 16-year-old Heyyoon Park, of South Korea (are they all called Park when they are not called Kim?), studying at the Hanns Eisler Musikhochschule in Berlin. Wearing a gravity-defying dress which screamed 'wardrobe malfunction' (but it never moved), the moment she started playing I thought 'wow', what a sound! There were a few iffy moments, and I thought she might have been a shade ahead of the orchestra, but she produced the Mozart 4th violin concerto beautifully, very clearly audible (eat your heart out, Vilhelmas Cepinskas) and with a stunning tone throughout, at times sounding almost like a viola. The second movement could have been even more lyrical, but she'll get there.

Following the interval, we heard 11-year-old Lilia Poticari (there's another Poticari in the competition?) from Moldova. She's been winning prizes since she was 6! She played Balys Dvarionas' 'By the pond' and Saint Saënss' Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso. Some time ago I had played a Dvarionas piece on the flute and was not impressed; nor was I impressed by this piece. He was a kind of folksy composer, take a bit of tune, play it, then an octave or two higher or lower - right cliché stuff; I could write music like that. But he was probably a guy of his time and his country. After all, Bartók wrote folksy stuff, too. Well, what can you do with a piece like this? Young Lilia has a rock-solid technique, with impeccable intonation, and is doing well on the musical front. She stands on the stage like a total professional and worked well with the conductor and the orchestra. The Saint-Saënss was awesome; could have been a bit cheesier on the introduction, but she is probably too young to make fun of such music. She only fell down on her professionalism when she did not return for a further curtain call.

Stepan Tarara, from Heidelberg, played Paganini's cantabile and cantarella (in which a poor glockenspiel player had the choice of one note on his instrument, played in small batches - what was Paganini thinking of when he wrote that part?).  His proud mum, beaming, but I mean beeeeaaaaaming, sat in the seat I had vacated for the second half, camera at the ready. Tarara is a student of Zakhar Bron, always a sign of quality. Also played everything spot on - a bit on the safe side, I thought; could have had more zest.  Seemed like a nice guy, though.

Diana Galvydyte made up for any lack of zest earlier in the evening. Wearing a spray-on dress that offered ample interesting views to those watching from behind and above, she laid down a funky Carmen Fantasy in the style of a totally ruthless, smoking hooker called Carmen. She played it dirty, she played it reckless, reminding me of the wonderful Prokofiev concerto she played for the Heifetz competition four years ago. It was brilliant!  She's clearly coming on very nicely, plus, being a bit older than the others, her experience and maturity showed.

A very interesting evening indeed.