Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Breaking the back of Bruch

What the heck was the matter with the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre today? There was the Malmö music academy orchestra, having travelled all the way from Sweden, and only the head of strings represented the music academy (in the first half). I mean, they are partners in the Erasmus programme, and some Lithuanians were in the orchestra, but neither the rector, nor the head of the senate, nor the Lithuanian music academy orchestra's conductor, nor a representative of the international department had the grace to support the guest orchestra. Not good enough - actually quite rude and shocking! (Apart from that the whole Lith music academy orchestra had received invitations, but of those also few attended).

So there they were, a big band, playing Körvitt, Bruch and Stenhammer. Tönu Körvitt's Passacaglia is so new, the ink is still wet. In terms of music, it was a fairly traditional piece. With a passacaglia, or a ciaconna for that matter, I expect to hear an 8-bar or so theme that goes round and round and round. I failed to spot that, but during this piece my mind rather wandered. It certainly covered a huge instrumental range.  

This was followed by the Bruch No 1 violin concerto (only the fourth hearing of it in Vilnius this year), with Vilhelmas Cepinskas as the soloist. He's a bit of a star performer in Lithuania, with a trend towards funkiness. Funky might work with Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons', but it does not really work with romantic music.  It was a rather strange performance, with extreme rubatos, rhythms which I doubt that Bruch wrote them, and the odd unusual sound here or there. Romantic music tends to be more prescriptive than Baroque music - I suspect Cepinskas did not follow the doctor's orders to the letter. The orchestra accompanied with enthusiasm!

Finally Stenhammer's second symphony. It's a folksy, pleasant, but rather long piece. Stenhammer seems to like dark sounds - three out of four movements were opened by the violas and cellos, who played beautifully (with two Lithuanian viola players, so they should!). The fourth movement was overlong, hurtling from one set of themes to another.  The orchestra played beautifully - not sure if they can do 'quiet', but they can certainly do 'loud' and 'enthusiastic'. Bags of energy.

Strange thing though - is it something that is in the Baltic sea? Neither their nor Lithuanian wind groups seem to be able to start all at the same moment.