17 April 2016

Lietuvos Kamerinis Orkestras Celebrate Juzeliunas Centenary

This is the start of a very busy week for this blog, tomorrow marks the start of the Jauna Muzika Festival. But last night was the performance of the Lietuvos Kamerinis Orkestras in the Philharmonic Hall here in Vilnius. This concert I have been waiting eagerly for ever since I discovered it was going to happen. The concert featured,two of my favourite works by Julius Juzeliunas, and a dosage of Bartok is always a good treat too.

To start the concert was Juzeliunas's magnificent concerto for organ, violin and string orchestra. The three movement work are full of skilled counterpoint, intensive musical interactions between the soloists and orchestra, and driving intensity. The soloists were Karolina Juodelyte (organ) and Dzeraldas Bidva (violin) with Adrija Cepaite conducting the proceedings. 

The opening movement starts with a strong chord from the organ, shattering the calm in the hall. The string orchestra's rebuttal is intensive and already the work jumps into a highly competitive concerto. The entrance of the violin soloist adds to the musical drama, and even in the first movement's calmer passages, the atmosphere is bubbling with energy and potential. 

The second movement is a growing passacaglia, which starts in the pedals of the organ and grows outwards from there. Adrija Cepaite really crafted the orchestra as she wanted, never straying from her intentions in the movement, but I found myself wishing she let the movement go a bit wilder. If performed with a bit more bite, the movement really hammers home and is just a stunning sight to behold. 

The finale is starts with a fugal material, once again starting in the organ, the lines are far more melismatic and flow seamlessly and elegantly. Karolina Juodelyte really showed her clout as an organist, always being a solid base for the orchestra to respond to, even in the most virtuosic passages. The music in the orchestra, like in previous movements, grew up to a sudden release allowing the musical to find an unsettled calm. The movement reached an almost cadenza-like area where the soloists were able to interact freely before the drama kicked off again. The performance never lost its drive, but this movement was definitely the most unstable movement in regards to performance. 

In this performance, without a doubt the best musician there was Karolina Juodelyte. At no point in the performance did she ever feel unnerved or less than in complete control of the piece. The virtuosity of the work almost felt like at times it was there just to make her look even better, a performer I definitely want to witness performing again. Dzeraldas Bidva was a very good violinist, but I felt he was very nearly beaten by this concerto. He never felt in complete control of the work, ultimately it wasn't completely under his fingers. This being said, it is very clear he is a strong performer, but needs to be witnessed with repertoire he is stronger at. Adrija Cepaite always kept the orchestra in good control, her leadership of the piece was ultimately strong, but I didn't agree with many of her musical interpretations of the work. However, she defiantly made her statement with this work, which has to commended. It is always a pleasure to see a conductor who has something to say.

Before the break was Bartok's Romanian Folk Dances. The pairing of Bartok and Juzeliunas is definitely a classy and wise choice, but a part of me would have loved something with a bit more of that oomph that we know and love in Bartok, like his Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste. This being said, the performance was flawless, full of character and wit. The orchestra are definitely in their element with this kind of repertoire. Adrija gave the work a lot of wit and charm and the orchestra responded in kind, its hard to say anything negative after a performance that was just down right solid and eloquent. 

After the interval came the highlight of the whole concert. Juzeliunas's fifth symphony Lygumu Giesmes. Those who have read this blog, know how much I love this work. You can see a more detailed discussion of it here

The two movement symphony was accompanied by the girl's choir of the Vilnius Liepaites Choral school. The opening of the symphony was handled well, admittedly starting a bit too loud I think, this was especially apparent when the rest of the orchestra joined in; their attack should have jolted listeners instead of tickling them lightly. The build up was handled well. The entrance of the choir was beautiful, but if they were even quieter it would have been truly ethereal. The work carries on building and sadly this wasn't quite as effective as the emphasis was always on the highest and lowest voices, the subtle changes in the middle of the texture went by unnoticed. Also a few wrong notes and unequal chord voicings ruined the beauty in places.

The second movement started with a real drive, and the girls in the choir were really keen on the adding stamping and clapping, admittedly I am sure they could have given it more welly. Once again the emphasis was on top and bottom and so the intensity that was given by the middle was weakened. Also the 10/8 time signature did a times feel a bit much for the orchestra, who were almost put in their place by the sheer strength and confidence of the Liepaites choir. 

Sadly I was unconvinced by the performance of this wonderful symphony, but Adrija Cepaite knew what she wanted to say and sadly it loudly and proudly. So kudos to her. After the performance of the symphony came a charming little song setting for the choir, which ultimately was just adorable, this choir know how to steal the audience's hearts. 

To finish this post here is a recording of the second movement of Juzeliunas's concerto for organ, violin and string orchestra. Enjoy and I'll be back very soon with a multitude of reviews. 

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