Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Vilnius, the Viola and Carnegie Hall

So there I was in the fairly packed Carnegie Hall, listening to Midori, Nobuko Imai, Antoine Lederlin (cello) and Jonathan Biss (piano) and it suddenly occurred to me that on two days running I would be in the hall, and each of those days a master-class giver to the Lithuanian Music Academy, somewhat sponsored by me, would be performing on the stage. Awesome.

I'd never heard Midori before (nor two of the others) - incredible to be in the presence of such a legend. The music was all classical (Haydn) or romantic (Schubert, Dvorak, plus a romantic encore) chamber music. Midori plays like an intense, hyperactive flea; lots of movement, even where you would not expect it, but very very intense. Her cellist, Lederlin, on the other hand, had a very quiet stage presence, which balanced Midori well. (I could not really see the pianist, sorry). At the beginning I was in the dress circle, somewhat high above the stage (my neighbour commented that he tended to suffer from vertigo), and at times it was very difficult to hear her (and the cellist) over the piano - not least when she plays pianissimo she really does achieve it, as did her cellist partner (later, even in the second row, I had difficulties at times). The pieces were sublimely played, but I thought the Schubert could have done with more weltschmerz.

In the second half of the concert Nobuko Imai joined them, for the Dvorak piano quintet. Like much of Dvorak's writing it had a gorgeous viola line or two, which were very enjoyable. It was a interesting combination; the fierce intensity of Midori, the quietness of the cellist, and Ms Imai somewhere in between the two. At times I thought Ms Imai could have played with a little more vigour, to balance Midori. I wondered why she did not play in the whole programme, or are there such few piano quartets?

It would have been nice, in terms of the whole concert, to have something contemporary, too; something the performers and the audience could get their teeth into. It was all a bit too beautiful.

While the concert was part of the Japan season at the Carnegie Hall, it has not taken on particular meaning, given the earthquake less than a month ago, and the manager of Carnegie Hall came on stage to ask to a minute's silence (has he been doing this at every Japan concert in the last month, I asked myself). Interestingly, in America don't seem to stand for these things.