Monday, March 16, 2009

Not a note out of place....

....at last night's concert for the SOS Talents foundation at the Filharmonija. It was a concert broadcast directly by Mezzo TV into 38 countries with, as they said, 16 million viewers. High-powered stuff, no? The first direct broadcast by Mezzo from Vilnius.

Our President, Mr Adamkus, is the patron of this foundation started by the Hungarian Michel Sogny in 2001. M Sogny is a pedagogue, composer and pianist, and also the Lithuanian honorary consul in Geneva. I have to say that the President looked like a man in pain; it's good that he will be able to put his slippers on and his feet up later this year, after the presidential election in May or so. The way he was standing, left shoulder much higher than the right one, no weight on the left leg, gives me two theories about his health. One is that of back pain, the other I won't discuss on a public website - suffice it to say that the only person I have seen standing exactly like this was suffering from a long-term degenerative disease. M le Président gave an introductory speech, translated into French by a poor interpreter who interrupted the President (I would have stopped, he wasn't having any of it), and then M Sogny gave another speech.

It seems SOS Talents is about sponsoring young pianists from the former Soviet Union and associated countries, most of whom follow the M Sogny school of piano playing, and many of whom have had masterclasses with him. So here we had pianists aged 10 to 19. The first half was entirely piano playing - I don't care that much for this, so I left that part after three out of four pianists. They all faithfully performed 6 Sogny etudes, all thankfully short, plus each played some other pieces. Listening to them all, especially the young ones, made me think of the Lang Lang biography I had read recently, especially when I read about the long lists of prizes some had won at competitions. Yes, they played nicely, and correctly, but the expression was not always there - the delightful Adam Szolokay (12) from Hungary played Bartok's Romanian Dances, beautifully, very beautifully indeed - but actually they need to be played roughly, like on a scratchy violin at a village dance. Two of the Lithuanians, taught by Justas Dvarionas, played pieces by grandpère Dvarionas, Balys of that ilk, in whose compositional abilities I have not much faith, though the one set of pieces I heard in this concert here had a bit more potential, with a Débussyan flavour.  Sogny's studies were, compositionally, not far removed from the 18th century in terms of tonality and structure - but then they were studies for educational purposes, not concert pieces.

In the second half the Lithuanian chamber orchestra joined them for the first movements of Beethoven's piano concertos Nos 1 and 3, and that Bach piano concerto (originally for harpsichord) that everyone knows. The Beethovens were, I'm afraid, rather hard - Beethoven has written lyrical bits in his music, but these did not come out, more so with the younger participant, Alexandra Masaleva (13) than Morta Grigaliunaite (17). Did not help that the orchestra had also not noticed the lyrical moments - but perhaps they were trying to match the soloists. Tedo Diakonidze from Georgia (16) was something else, though. Bach does not really do lyrical, but Diakonidze still exposed different colours and played a beautiful second movement. He was also by far the best-mannered of all the participants, remembering to thank the orchestra leader after his performance. Lovely guy; I hope he will go far.