Friday, July 31, 2009

Viola Congress!

Here I am at the International Viola Congress, and I find it very difficult writing reviews....many of the performers are my friends, and although that has not stopped me in the past, it's still a bit awkward.  So I'll just mention the highlights and various bits of impressions:

The congress attenders are generally white, apart from the young people from Pretoria (the South African Viola Society's President's students). There is also a significant age gap between these and the rest of the participants, apart from one group of students from the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, whose SA-born teacher brought them over for wall-to-wall Hindemith. Sometimes there can be a bit too much of a good thing.  But the young ones from Pretoria participated quite happily in many things (not as much as they might have done, though maybe they were also busy practicing. Before last night's gala concert they did a lovely kwela (South African music, not improvised, but very nice and played with much enjoyment, it seems).

Roger Chase produced a stunning performance of the William Bell Viola Concerto, 'Rosa Mystica'; it was the first time it had been played live since 1917. It's a lovely romantic piece, and it really was a superb performance. The young Pretorian lads jumped up into a standing ovation - it's brilliant to see enjoyment and real appreciation like that!

Csaba Erdelyi's performance of his own edition of the Bartok concerto was very interesting. Not sure about his opening of the second movement, which Nobuko Imai had said should be played like a boy soprano in a church - Csaba's approach sounded more like a person in distress, voicing his anguish (just the interpretation, not because there were problems with the performance). This edition has a very complicated history. He started doing it because he was not convinced with Tibor Serly's completion of the work, which Bartok had almost completed when he died of leukaemia. Erdelyi found 260 wrong notes alone, and some transpositions which did not please him, so he laboured over the work for years. Only to discover that Peter Bartok would not give him permission to publish his edition. However, in Australia and New Zealand works pass into the public domain earlier than in Europe and the US, so he published it in NZ, and yesterday's performance was in an educational setting - which is ok. Cannot be performed in Europe or the US....

Kenneth Martinson and Vladimir Andreev's performance of the Rolla duos was fun; at times at the edge of the precipice in terms of hanging on in there, but fun.

I have not participated in as many activities/events as I could have done; it was  also quite nice to hang out and relax....Though today it's raining; I don't have a rain jacket on me; the programme is not that exciting...Maybe I'll hop on a train to Cape Town. There's a railway station in Stellenbosch, and I'll need to see how long the train takes....

The food is a bit weird; yesterday I lunched at the student canteen and found myself eating potatoes covered in sugar and cinnamon....there was also sweet potato, I think, covered in sugar and a sort of sweet potato pancake (ditto). Hmmm.