Friday, June 05, 2009

Vilnius is HIP!

Of course we knew that anyway, though sometimes there are aspects ....hmmm.

I'm talking about historically informed performance - in music. At last it is arriving in Vilnius, and it seems, even being taught at the music academy. Welcome to the 21st century!

Seemed like it was Mindaugas Backus' (final?) exam for his doctorate (given the heavy mob loitering at the back of the hall). Backus is of course that wonderful cellist about whom I have written often. Recently he has developed quite an interest in baroque technique, even to the degree of buying a (modern) baroque cello. Not sure if he sparked that interest in the music academy, or vice versa.  Suspect the former is more likely to be the case, after hearing the tone in the voice of a music professor about 'old music' when I had bumped into him the day before.

It was a chamber music exam, so there were lots of other players. All the string players used the baroque bow. Now, call me fussy, but normally I think you would hold the baroque bow a bit higher up, or does that only apply when you use a modern bow to play in the baroque style? Baroque bows perform quite differently. Backus clearly also had gut strings on his instrument - given the amount of tuning he had to do, and the slower response of the strings. Not sure about the other ones - the other two cellists also, like him, bravely held their cellos with their legs. It would be a bit of a job, restringing a cello just for one concert....I also wondered if someone would make concert clothes with a non-slip inside leg? As long as they don't wear skirts or trousers with an elasticated waist....The violinist (Rima Svegdaite, from the St Christopher Chamber Orchestra) had an interesting woman-shaped violin (without corners) and the flautist (Vytenis Giknius, from the Lithuanian state orchestra) used a wooden flute - its sound was so different from the modern metal flutes; so much warmer.  The harpsichord was the usual all-over-Vilnius harpsichord. Really I don't know why composers at that time wrote for it in ensembles; I could not hear it at all (not the player's fault, of course - Vaiva Eidukaite-Storastiene).

Anyway. The concert began with Vivaldis Sonata No 5 for cello and basso continuo (played by another cello, possibly Onute Svabauskaite). I am sure I know it. It was very nice - one little portamento slipped in, probably by accident, but otherwise it was great - nicely played in the baroque style. I wondered, though, whether it had been written for cello originally - it was so fast (in the fast movements) that the strings did not have enough time to respond; they were almost meeting themselves coming backwards. I would have put it down more for violin (or maybe flute, if it fits under flute fingerings).

This was followed by Telemann's cantata for flute, soprano (Nora Petrochenko) and cello 'Ew'ge Quelle, milder Strom'; sounds like one you might not wish to sing to someone with a prostrate condition. Beautiful flute solos, and the usual da capo style arias.  Again very nicely performed, though I realised after a while that the singer was singing in German. As she should be, it's Telemann, after all. Then I tried to listen to the words, but had some difficulty. The word is 'ich', not 'isch'.  Bit of a shame.

Finally we had a quartet from the 'New Quartets in Six Suites' - typically baroque, Telemann threw in an inaudible harpsichord as well. I wondered if the flute part might have been a violin part originally. It was a nice conversation between the flute and the three string instruments. I thought the violin did not come through very well (gut strings??), and there were some intonation issues. Was it really written for two upper instruments (flute/violin) and two cellos? Here the second cello was played by Roma Jaraminaite (unless the female cellists were the other way round - you know what I mean...) Anyway, it was fun. Backus was ready to take off - I wondered how different it is to play a cello you have to hold up, rather than one which is pinned to the ground.

Great little concert!