Gidon Kremer pre-Carnegie-Strathmore Concert 

(published first at ionarts)

Available at Amazon
G.Kancheli Lament, G.Kremer etc.
After an unacceptably unfunny, boring and interminable speech by a violinist of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Gidon Kremer relieved the audience at the Strathmore with the sounds of “Lonesome – 2 Great Slava from 2GKs”. The subtitle is rather tiresome with its jarring new-Age touch and is really just a dedication to Rostropovich from the work’s composer Giya Kancheli and Gidon Kremer.

The stop & go pianissimo and piano start of the work – beautifully melodic and with a catchy rhythm – gave the audience ample opportunity to cough right into the most tender passages. For its beauty, Lonesome pays with lack of originality. The sudden, terraced tutti outbursts that end even more suddenly we already know from him and other conservative East European composers. I like Kancheli’s work which I know mostly from a slew of ECM releases – this is not one I’ll be quick to add 2myCollXtion.

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D.Shostakovich Complete Concertos, G.Kremer, H.Schiff, V.Mullova, P.Jablonski, C.Ortiz
No worries, though, because Shostakovich loomed over Kancheli’s horizon. The 1st Violin Concerto in a-minor, op.99 is a magnificent work and the Strathmore acoustics’ (over)emphasis of the lowest registers had the double basses buzz deliciously. Even if Kremer was not quite in Carnegie-form yet where he will play tomorrow (a few slips, a few flat notes in the Nocturne: Moderato first movement), he also showed why he has the reputation of being one of the most appealing violinists of our day. His tone in the first movement was lean, bleak even... and though I thought ‘honeyed’ at one point, ‘hauntingly colorless’ probably better describes it.

The attack of the second movement temporarily turned Kremer’s instrument into a viola before the aggressive high notes put an end to this. Vigorously quoting Shostakovich’s initials (D-S-C-H), Kremer’s bow looked like it had seen fierce battle. Amidst half a dozen flying strands of horsehair, Kremer gave a good amount of ferocity to the wild Scherzo without his relatively small tone ever losing its lithe quality. The rhythm of the entire movement was infectious. Meticulously carved notes dominated the long third movement’s Passacaglia: Andante and the Presto bit of the fourth movement Burleque ended the work on a note of (much appreciated, judging from the applause) vigor.

Available at Amazon
G.Kancheli Lament, G.Kremer etc.
Debussy’s La Mer followed – all under the leadership of Yuri Termikanov, of course – and rather than shimmering with magic, it had a nervous flutter to it. It was executed capably and offered rousing moments. (What a live performance can be is shown by the Lucerne Festival Orchestra’s recording under Abbado, both on their CD and DVD of the occasion.)

Ravel’s La Valse is Johann Strauss II on acid – but for all the turmoil in which Ravel found himself when writing it, it’s essentially good natured and not as cynical or scathingly ironic as Mahler’s often twisted use of the waltz and its forms. Well played as the BSO offered it, it was a joy to hear.

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