21 April 2017

Atviru fortepijonu dienos

Last night was a joyous occasion. The first in a series of keyboard recitals in the brand new Organum koncertu sale. An opportunity to show off astounding pianistic talent, as well as showing off all the shiny new keyboards in the hall. Admittedly the concert was dominated by lots of different music, but I desperately want to write about the concert as it features two works by THE Sarunas Nakas. 

But before the concert began, of course there was a lot of speeches. Of course there were. But after all the discussions came the first instrument to demonstrate, the brand new Johannes Rucker copy harpsichord. This was done with two pieces, firstly with Padre Antonio Saler's Fandango a really lively and talkative piece for harpsichord. The second work was also by Antonio Saler, but it was his concerto for harpsichord and organ in G minor. Vaiva Storastiene was the harpsichordist for both works, and I found with her performing despite being wonderfully technically proficient, but missed that edge. Particularly in the Fandango, where the emphasis on the curious conversations is centre stage, a performer needs to make sure the conversation doesn't become monotone. This being said, the concerto for harpsichord and organ was far more interesting as a performance, especially as Dainius Sverdiolas was such a charming and characterful performer. The piece was already rather campy, but Sverdiolas manages to add a whole new level of wit and charm to a really endearing piece.

After even more speeches came a bit of Chopin. Constant talking about how the Stocker piano was perfect piano for this repertoire preceded the performance, and I was rather confused. Despite the wonderful colour of the bass strings of the piano, the overall piano sound was like I was submerged in water. Rather surreal experience. And meh, I am not the person to write about Chopin, so lets move on. 

Following the Chopin, and EVEN MORE talks, came two works for the new Johannus organ; Cesar Franck's Cantabile and Olivier Messiaen's Dieu parmi nous. Dainius Sverdiolas came out again and his characterful performances came to the fore again. Admittedly the Cantabile was too sickly for my liking, but Sverdiolas managed to make it stop sounding self indulgent. But the real joy came with Dieu parmi nous. Sverdiolas let rip and what a performance. The sheer tenacity and oomph was glorious. The sheer power and might of the work came out in every gesture of Sverdiolas, what a joy indeed. Truly glorious. 

Then when I was at a point of post-Messiaen bliss, came EVEN MORE SPEECHES! This time to introduce the Steinway piano and THE Muza Rubackyte. Rubackyte came out and stunned the audience with her renditions of Ciurlionis. Being very familiar with her recordings I was very excited to see it live, and what a treat. Truly magnificent. 

After this came the moment I was most excited about, two works by Sarunas Nakas. How do I define Nakas? How can one begin to describe the vast and intensive creativity of Nakas's output? One of Lithuania's truly original and unique voices, and a radical voice indeed. To start this astounding double bill was a brand new work by Sarunas Nakas, Hymn. Written for this event, a work for organ, piano, and harpsichord. A truly wonderful thing to behold. Starting from a modest single note on the organ, the work slowly grew with the vaguely canonic gestures from the percussive harpsichord and piano. The trio constantly danced around each other, and this work really showed Nakas at his most elegant. In a surprisingly modest gesture, the work slowly gains momentum and power, with the rather serene organ, staying rather static, until the climax of the work. The challenge of combining such disparate forces really fell to Nakas's advantage as he exploited the curiosity and differences of the ensemble to perfection. Hopefully, hopefully, another performance can happen in the near future, or at least I hope a recording begins to circulate soon! What a truly astounding work. 

Following this most serene of moments, came a clumsy interlude, where the audience had to be herded like cattle to three connected rooms to find some form of space between the 17 pianos. Yes. 17 pianos. Because the finale of the whole concert was Sarunas Nakas's Merz-Machine from 1985. The shape and structure of the work is rather straightforward, a slowly building gesture with pianos joining in one by one until we reach the powerful postlude. The constant repeating gestures, and loose connection of structure does have a vague similarity to Terry Riley's In C, that is if In C was written by a Hell's Angel, instead of a hippy. The work is truly monstrous and terrifying, even moreso in person. The ritualistic pulsations and unending sense of gathering doom is intensive. For me, the performance was made all the more mysterious and whimsical by the fact I could see Sarunas's silhouette dancing on the white piano in front of me. His violent gestures really made the piece feel like a monstrous piece of machinery functioning noisily, or like a witch doctor dancing into a frenzy. What a joy to witness. 

Afterwards came a very nice little reception which did have me thinking, why on earth did we listen to the speeches mid concert!? Why not give too many speeches when everyone has wine? The concert would have been far more fluid and enjoyable, and I probably wouldn't have left so hungry that I had to dive into the nearest chippy I could find. 

So for those who didn't get to see it, here is some cheeky recordings of Muza Rubackyte: 

And Sarunas Nakas!

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