Thursday, December 31, 2009

Music - at last!

After a five-month break from orchestral music I am now getting my fill again! Saturday night saw us in the Filharmonija, for the usual Christmas concert by the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra under its artistic director Sergey Krylov, with an early Haydn symphony and a Mozart divertimento (we missed the second half of Vivaldi's four seasons for a dinner engagement; should have been Mendelssohn's concerto for piano, violin and strings but the pianist could not make it to Vilnius for whatever reason).

Both pieces were nice; I did not know the Mozart (a first?), and played with plenty of verve and energy (which has not always been the case in this orchestra). It seems that the pulse may begin to beat again.....It was lovely seeing a few friends, too!

Then last night it was the Kamerata Klaipeda with their usual Christmas concert. Usually they used to play baroque type music, but last night it was all romantic music; quite a nice change; though the programme, both in terms of sequencing and content, had rather little connection with what was played.

The concert started with Ysaye's 'Evening Harmonies' for string quartet and string orchestra; bit of a dirge, frankly and I was glad it was played at the beginning and not the end of the concert. Well played but boring - but I suppose 'evening harmonies' would not lead to much excitement (if you see 'evening' as either old age or the end of a long, hardworking day).

The band followed this with Mendelssohn's 7th symphony, strings only. It was nice and very energetically played. In the menuetto the cellos sounded rather dry; that place could have done with some warmth which the cellists are well capable of, but somehow that did not come across.

The second half was a series of more or less salon pieces. Vilhelmas Cepinskas struggled to make himself heard over his band in Schumann's 'Dedication' and Suk's 'Love song', both arranged for string orchestra and soloist. They all played beautifully but the balance could have been better.

Then the VIOLA soloist, Michail Bereznickij, played Bruch's Kol Nidrei and Tchaikovsky's Andante, both originally written for cello and string orchestra (I think). They were played very safely; he is also no Misha Maisky (who has produced the most moving performance of Kol Nidrei ever), but quite nicely. I would have preferred Weber's Andante and Hungarian Rondo (as advertised) instead of the Tchaikovsky. Like Bashmet, in whose orchestra Bereznickij plays, he used the sheet music in front of him.

Finally we had Vieuxtemps Virtuosic Duet for violin and viola (and string band). It's a delightful piece! Vieuxtemps, true to his name, wrote it in the style of Paganini, with very virtuosic parts to the violin, and also to the viola, within the limits of that instruments (there are some things you can't do on a viola as compared to a violin, something to do with string response). A lovely, lovely piece, played with exuberance. And the final, most virtuosic movement was given again as an encore since there was no other music available for the combination of all players. Which did not stop Cepinskas from adding a couple of solo (with band) pieces at the end, including a rumbustious Romanian dance. Great fun!

Both concerts had a fair amount of non-concertgoers in the audience, who applauded between every movement. Do I care? It's nice that they come to concerts!


Brrrr in Vilnius

Got back to Vilnius a week ago; it was raining, it had frozen earlier, and it was like an ice rink - until and including Christmas day, when it was absolutely pouring on top of the ice. As I went out to empty the bins, a couple of homeless guys slipped into our stairwell, no doubt hoping I would not notice. Found them sitting right at the top of the stairs (next to my apartment); they said they wanted to warm up (and dry out?) a little. Who could blame them? I gave them some Christmas biscuits to support any liquids they might be taking. The next morning they had gone and the stairs were fine.

Then it thawed a bit, and the pavements were clear, but a couple of days ago it started snowing again. I can't make up my mind whether the municipality is cutting back on snow clearing; now the snow is frozen to the pavements again and it is becoming treacherous. But I do see people out shovelling snow (this always used to be a public works scheme whereby the unemployed got a bit of employment and a bit of income). I am not sure how much the municipality is liable for people's injuries; they may never have been sued, otherwise the pavements might, even without snow, be in better nick.

Having said that, while I was in Germany a couple of weeks ago, during a very cold snap, I did not notice that there was that much pavement cleaning being done - and there the onus is on property owners/renters to clear the snow in front of their property....