Roni's Journal

Monday, 23 April 2007

Arts Evening

On Friday we had a 'Final Rehearsal' for the concert, with several friends coming. It was ok, we didn't play perfectly. But yesterday, on the actual 'concert', or "Arts Evening", we played much better.

The music programme was:

A. Scarlatti: Aria "Son Tutta Duolo"
Piano: Olya
Voice: Roni

W. A. Mozart: Minuet in C
Piano: Mary

S. Rachmaninoff: Vocalise
Piano: Olya
Violin: Roni

F. Schubert: Impromptus in Ges-dur
Piano: Roni

Several friends came and a few relatives. It is hopefully going to be a start of a long tradition, on the lines of what Rimsky-Korsakov used to have in his house - concerts every two weeks with a diversity of the best musicians appearing in his house in the course of many years. But to add to the music, we decided to have an "art gallery" of latest works by Olya and anyone wishing to join. In fact, one of my good friends brought her paintings as well, and I put up a few of my mother's paintings too, and so it was great fun after the music part of the evening to have everyone join to look at around 25 paintings that went on display!

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Sunday, 22 April 2007

Mozart - Minuet in C

My daughter, Mary, plays:

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Monday, 16 April 2007


I went to see Falstaff a few weeks ago – the Kirov Maryinsky theatre was performing. At last I got in touch with someone who might be able to get me more tickets to final rehearsals of this type.

It was a modern production, but I liked the idea, which was to show the feelings of characters who are singing onstage by putting 2-3 pseudo-characters around them who are doing a sort of pantomime that describes what the soloist is feeling. At an extreme point, when Ford was singing about his jealousy and anger, and his doubts about his wife's fidelity, behind him, a group of 8 or so ballerinas came on stage and started dancing, when all of a sudden a "murderer" came in and started "killing" them with a knife. By the time the aria finished, behind Ford, the floor was full of "bodies"! The red lighting made the effect more so. But this was the extreme of it, and I quite liked the general idea – it was something innovative, without having to resort to "traditional innovation", if you know what I mean. The orchestra was great as were most of the soloists. Of course, it being a final rehearsal, there were a few things to correct, like the orchestra overplaying the soloists at times.

A week later I went to another concert. This time, a group of five kids conductors (10-12 year olds) from Uzbekistan conducted our city's symphony orchestra. They played a Rossini overture, a movement from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, Massenet, Beethoven's 4th symphony, and some other pieces.

The public's impression was that it was amazing. But the performance really was effective in just that – making an impression. My personal impression was that the orchestra, being very good itself, was playing well regardless of the "conductor". At times one could hear the orchestra doing things that the conductor wasn't even aware of. It was funny.

But the most important tests for the conductors were the slow movements. It is very difficult to conduct a slow movement well, and the kids' abilities to keep the entrances in time weren't good enough. The conductor's main job, in my opinion, is to keep the orchestra balanced – in volume, and together – in time. Unfortunately, none of this was achieved up to standard.

And so, even though it is great that these kids get to study music, to experience live concerts, and to actually have fun conducting, I think their time would have been better spent studying orchestration, listening more, etc.

On Tuesday I might be going to see Ariadne of Naxos by Richard Strauss.

We are planning to do a home concert on Saturday. I want to call it an Arts Evening. The plan is to have several musical pieces performed during an hour, with a break in the middle for 10 minutes. During the break, the guests would be invited to see a gallery of paintings. As my wife is an artist, it would be an opportunity for her to display her works, and for us, as a family, to play in front of an audience. We will start small, with the audience consisting of close friends and relatives, but I hope it can grow to be something regular and big: I've already invited a friend who also paints to bring her drawings along to our gallery, and next concert perhaps one of my music students will perform something as well.

The program for Saturday is not finally decided yet, but to start with we have: my daughter Mary will play a Minuet by Mozart, Olya and I will perform Rachmaninoff's Vocalise, with me playing on the violin, then I will sing an aria by A. Scarlatti. Also, I might play Schubert's beautiful Ges-dur Impromptus.

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Monday, 1 January 2007

Hilary Hahn

Last year I was at a concert conducted by Zubin Metha here in Israel, with three exceptional pieces in the programme: Bizet's first symphony (the second movement of which has a most lovely oboe solo, and which inspired me to write the trio for oboe and horns), a song cycle by Chausson (about the death of love and the sea), and Prokofiev's fifth symphony, which almost literally blew me out of my seat!

Yesterday I obtained the new CD with Hilary Hahn playing Paganini and Spohr. It is fantastic. It is absolutely unbelievable. I am going to write a detailed review and post it on the web, but I already am almost prepared to vouch that this is the best recording of Paganini's No. 1 that there is, somehow so easily surpassing Kogan and Accardo. I am in search of Gil Shaham's interpretation (whose Vivaldi recordings are the best I ever heard), which is essential for the Paganini comparison.

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Tuesday, 14 March 2006


On 19 Feb I was in a free-entrance concert in the Conservatoire of Tchaikovsky. Students of Tatyana Dobrovolskaya (one of the piano teachers there) were playing.

Even though, they played pieces by the standard (here) set of composers, i.e. Bach, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, the pieces weren't the usual showpieces, and it made the listening more interesting. Because, when one listens to a piece one has heard so many times, it is difficult to judge without prejudice, and without comparison to the stereotype performances, unless it is something extraordinary.

I liked the most the performance of one of Liszt's etudes.

On 22 Feb I went to another such concert. This time it was dedicated to earlier composers (Baroque and Classical), and among others, the following pieces made an impression: Mozart's C minor sonata (although played without the Fantasia), Chopin's Op. 28 preludes (only selected nine were played), Bach (played on a clavecin) - French suite No. 6, Toccata d-moll (913), Fantasia and fugue a-moll (904), Marin Marais - Les folies for clavecin and viola da gamba, Haydn's Variations in F-dur (HVII:6) played terribly on a hammerklaiver, and a few songs by Beethoven.

Also, a few contemporary pieces were inserted in between. How out of place!

One of the performers, Maria Uspenskaya, was exceptional, and I think her name will be heard more around the world in the coming years. She is very musical and her performance leaves behind an unforgettable experience. She played Chopin, the French suite by Bach and Beethoven.

On 25 Feb I listened to "Moscow Baroque", an ensemble that plays on baroque instruments. Three concerti by Vivaldi, a symphony by Pergolesi were played, and the two main pieces were by Pergolesi: cantata 'Orfeo', and the popular intermezzo 'La serva padrona'.

It wasn't bad, but it wasn't anything special, although the Bass singer was quite artistic. The soprano, Karina Debord from France was ok. Supposedly, she has been studying baroque music for 10 years, but I didn't feel that in her singing.

On 27 Feb, in the large concert hall of the Conservatoire, Elisso Virsaladze (piano) and Natalia Gutman (cello) gave a concert: Beethoven - 12 variations on themes by Mozart (op. 66), Grieg's a-moll sonata, and then Rachmaninoff's g-moll sonata.

It's a pity that the players have to play more than they want to prepare for. The Rachmaninoff sonata was very well performed, and it is an amazing piece. But the other two pieces weren't played what I would call up to standard, unfortunately.

The most amazing concert was on 2 March! I have never seen such young kids play so perfectly, so musically, genuinely! It was a Mozart evening. Several sonatas KK. 6 (piano, flute, cello), 15 (violin, piano), 19d (piano 4-hands) were performed - all by children aged 10-14. No single mistake, and everything - so musical, so dynamic, perfect! It was just amazing, and such an inspiration to my daughter (whom I took along with me). After the interval, several songs were performed, by more mature performers, and - funny - but it wasn't as perfect as were the little kids. All the performers were from Spivakov's fund. It is great to see such work being done. And it is great to see that young musicians are taught well.

The last concert I've been to was on 4 March. Olga Martynova and Olga Grechko performed 8 songs by Mozart and 8 songs by Haydn. Martynova is a harpsichord player, and unfortunately her playing on the hammerklavier was very harpsichord-ish. For example, the time delays on the first beats of 16th notes, which are the usual expression tool on harpsichord isn't needed on a hammerklavier, which has new tools, namely piano and forte, and obviously it doesn't sound in place. Another example is the arpeggiato of all chords, which also is usual on a harpsichord, but on a hammerklavier sounds out of place. A questions arises - was it worth playing the hammerklavier at all, why not play the harpsichord if it is all the same to her?!

But Grechko, the soprano, was very good, and overall, I enjoyed the concert.

My wife and I saw the most amazing figure skating performance on 7 March, which we went to (while the kids stayed with the visiting grandmother). Evgeny Pluschenko is absolutely fantastic! It was breathtaking.

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