22 October 2016

And off we go GAIDA 2016

So after a long wait of eager anticipation GAIDA 2016 has begun. As mentioned in my last post, GAIDA 2016 joined me in celebrating their 26th birthday and what an occasion it was too. The Filharmonie hall was packed full of enthusiastic and curious people, eager to partake in the nights events. After the usual nattering of old colleagues catching each other and young students bumping into friends, the audience wandered into the hall with a slight sense of befuddlement and confusion. Everyone was curious and eager to find out why they had to navigate around music stands to get to their seats for the beginning of the night's event. 

After the usual warm introduction and thanks, the concert started with Gyorgy Kurtag's Double Concerto for piano, cello, and two chamber ensembles. The four movement concerto was curious, strong, but profoundly modest (like all things by Kurtag). Each movement had a clear defining sense of character, full of wonderful nuances which were elegantly crafted throughout the ensemble. You could feel you were in for a treat when the soloists Francesco Dillon and Emanuele Torquati so wonderfully performed their microscopic gestures which danced so subtly around each other. The chamber groups were spread throughout the hall and made for some fantastic outerbody experiences. Admittedly these would have been more striking in a bigger hall to really exploit depth, but that being said the effect was not really tarnished too much; it just lacked the same expansiveness of the work, but didn't detract from it. I always found the moments the recorders appeared particularly alien and wonderful, undefined but clear sounds just gorgeous stuff. Throughout all of this the orchestra showed a surprising amount of clout, their were almost no blemishes in the performance, Jonathan Berman really knew how to get the most out of this fine orchestra who tend to be a bit shy when it comes to twentieth century and twenty-first century repertoire. Francesco Dillon and Emanuele Torquati were just faultless, both in their own parts, but the way they always seemed to naturally interact with each other and just blend together quite beautifully. The final chords of the concerto were exquisite, the hall was frozen, and I was in a very happy place; it was only when we released the tension and clapped that everyone came back to earth. 

After a short break, to furiously and speedily return chairs to their natural state, the concert resumed with a work by Vykintas Baltakas. His commentum for cello and orchestra is a reworking of his piece by the same name for cello and piano. I stress the word reworking, as to suggest it is an arrangement of the earlier work would be a dire misjudgment. The piece starts with the same cheeky wit, with ideas appearing like flashes. As the piece developed, I really gained a sensation that the orchestral treatment was very similar to his Saxordionphonics (a very fine work for saxophone, accordion, and chamber orchestra), within it the flourishes and stabs are never violent. Maybe I am using the wrong word, poking and nudging would be a more suitable word to describe it. The ideas give you a playful nudge in the hopes you'd notice their magnificence, but the chances are if you weren't thinking you missed it. So it cheekily nudges you again. The other way of looking at it, is like being at a dinner party and somebody nudges you and follows with the line 'did I tell you about the time...' and rivet you with a charming anecdote. Francesco Dillon almost seemed built for this piece, his control and charm with it is far more apparent and natural. The pairing of Kurtag and Baltakas was also a very fine choice indeed, as they both complement each superbly. Their music may not say a lot in a given time, but you can be damn sure everyone utterance is vital, insightful, and above all else witty.


It is very rare in a concert to feel the audience become awed by a musician merely showing up with their instrument. With the appearance of Liudas Mockunas and his bass saxophone, you could feel everyone go 'oooooo'. The instrument is glorious and fascinating, and like the rest of the saxophone family, a really suffering when it comes to good concerto or solo works (I think this issue stems from many poorer composers forgetting that the saxophone can do other things than jazz). So with this in mind I was curious to see how Vytautas Germanavicius would tackle such a conundrum. His work Underwater Geometry had me intrigued for a long time, as before this concert the only other works of his I was familiar with were small chamber groups of maybe four at most. Ultimately I think he is more suited to more austere ensembles. The piece ultimately liked a defining point to it. Many fine gestures and textures were created, but they often lacked purpose; the finest example was the fact the soloist double soprano saxophone, to play it for a microsecond before returning to the beast. The soloist was remarkable, his control of everything was fantastic, and to be honest if it were just a piece for bass saxophone I probably would have be wowed by it. Sadly because the dynamic and interaction between soloist and orchestra was underbaked it couldn't really turn into anything tangibly interesting. Which is a shame, saxophones need good repertoire, especially the lower members of the family. I can only really think of Georg Fredrich Haas's Concerto for Baritone Saxophone as the only decent work for low saxes. I'll just have to keep looking and listening.

The finale came in the form of Liza Lim's Pearl, Ochre, Hair String. To be honest I am divided about the work of Liza Lim, but I think it is because I either find the pieces are out of this world or just a bit limp. Thankfully this was solid and by solid I mean brutally violent! The opening screams and scrapes from the cellist armed with a stick wrapped in bow hair was a stunning jolt of electricity after the previous piece and really gripped everyone hard. The work really showed an elegant to and fro between beautiful serene harmonies and jagged sounds. It was by far the most brutal and intense piece of the night. A violent kick in the face after the early pieces full of charm and wit. The sensation was like spending a fine evening at dinner party, full of witty anecdotes and remarks before ending the night by being knocked out in a boxing ring. This is ultimately to everyone's strength I think, because it really highlighted the qualities of every piece, and made Liza Lim's more exhilarating.

The whole concert was a wondrous way to start a festival, to be honest I cannot imagine many other concerts which were so succinct and nuanced but also radically different. The juxtaposition of Liza Lim to Kurtag and Vyktinas Baltakas was inspired. I cannot wait for today's events in the contemporary art gallery.

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