Sunday, March 15, 2009

Delightful Bruckner

Bit of a posh do in the Filharmonija last night. The concert was sponsored by Statoil whose flag was placed outside the concert hall, and many ambassadors attended - the Austrian, Norwegian, Vatican, Japanese, and I think the Georgian ambassador, who, sitting in the row behind me, talked loudly during one of the pieces (which gives me a clue) until I glared at him. Otherwise the hall was far from full. In addition that American-Lithuanian businessman who only comes to concerts when they are a posh do. In concerts like these many invitations are given out, but a programme involving Bruckner and Shostakovich is not that attractive to non-music-lovers, so folk don't come. At least people did not applaud between movements, as often happens on such occasions, and most stayed for the second half. Given that at least two Ambassador's cars were there at the end of the concert, the motivation must have been the concert - there did not appear to be drinks after the concert.

But who was the announcer? Not the usual authoritative and delightful lady, but a slip of a girl, who talked well and audibly, but got a bit carried away with herself in the handing out of flowers to the soloist, making a little speech.

Do all the Norwegian upper string players come from the same Lego box? I'm just asking, because Arne Tellefsen, the violinist, looked like a miniature version of the viola player Lars Anders Tomter. Given that Tomter is easily 2m tall, this makes the miniature version about 1.70 - 1.80 tall; otherwise there was no difference in looks, though Tellefsen is probably a bit older.  He performed in Shostakovich's first violin concerto, with Thomas Rösner of Austria conducting the National Symphony Orchestra of Lithuania.

This is an awesome piece; long, with much complicated technique. The first movement, a nocturne, was a bit not going anywhere, fairly languid, not really telling a story (one would think that a nocturne would tell a bedtime story) - it seemed to lack tension a bit (I'm listening to Daniel Hope's more interesting recording of this movement).  The fireworks started in the second movement, and never stopped. Does the second movement involve a theme from the cello concerto? It seemed familiar. The second and fourth movements sounded typically Shostakovich, and quite Soviet. There is a long, looooong, and hair-raising, cadenza at the end of the third movement. Of these last three movements Tellefsen gave an awesome performance, with incredible energy. For the deserved encore he played Ole Bull's piece 'A mother's prayer'. Ole Bull is well-known to violin aficionados as a 19th century virtuoso (I thought he made fiddles, too, but I must be mistaken). The piece was a bit sentimental, but I suppose in the 19th century mothers had reason for prayer, what with the child death rate being what it was then.

I never thought that I would use the words 'delightful' and 'Bruckner' in the same sentence, but this is what it turned out to be. My heart had sunk at the prospect of Bruckner, but I thought that it would be good for me - and I am really glad I stayed! The first movement of this fourth symphony (the 'Romantic') could almost have been a ballet score; the third movement of which I knew the main theme was a very strict scherzo (bit unusual by that time) repeating the first part verbatim (the conductor turned back his pages.....), and had a lovely rural middle part. There were some lovely melodies; hints of Mahler (to come) with those Austrian trills; generally it was a very Austrian piece. I really must look at Bruckner more.... Don't know what Thomas Rösner had done to the orchestra; the French horns were outstanding, for once, the cellos sounded really lush, there were some lovely viola solos. It really was a great concert! (Sadly, the applause was tired - perhaps because the piece ends with a bit of a damp squib).