Sunday, February 08, 2009

Full forces

It seems that the Filharmonija is suffering quite a lot from the economic crisis, see my query here. Speaking to them last night they said that all they were doing now was accountancy work, finding ways of saving money everywhere.

Last night's concert, my first proper concert with the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra featured Povilas Jacunskas (cello) and the Latvian conductor Imants Resnis, together with Prokofiev and Mahler.

Jacunskas (about 25) is the great white hope of Lithuanian cello playing - I remember him from his school days, which was almost yesterday; though he seems to have aged more than the eight years since I first saw him. Last night he played Prokofiev's symphony-concerto in e minor. With gusto! It's probably not fair of me to be listening to Mischa Maisky playing it while I am writing this review.... Jacunskas played beautifully and expertly, getting himself round all those tricky corners with bravura. His intonation suffered at moments, and the lyrical theme in the second movement could have been more lyrical (but so could Maisky's), but otherwise it was all under control. In those pizzing places in the first movement, had his strings been those of a bow and arrows, the arrows would have shot through three fat men standing behind each other. How he managed not to break a string, I'll never know!  The audience was full of his fan club, friends, fellow students, colleagues from his orchestra (all to visibly absent in the second half), and it would have been nice to have had an encore.

In the second half we heard Mahler's first symphony, in the original version - which contains an extra movement. The orchestra must have died when they found that out! I've never heard the orchestra play as quietly as they did at the beginning of the movement - so they can do it! Unfortunately the oboe d'amore sounded rather flat in this rather exposed place which was a bit of a shame. The third (usually second) movement initially seemed to be lacking a bit of Viennese give and take, but then suddenly the conductor threw it in - and it was probably more wonderful for being so unexpected. During the interval I had heard a bassist practice the Frère Jacques theme and wondered 'what's there to practice in that?'. But seeing he played it as a soft solo, clearly there was everything to practice in that. It was a great performance (though afterwards I heard some mutterings from some other people, musicians at that....).