Symphony and Chamber Music at Varna Summer


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The following concerts given by: Yuri Bashmet and Moscow Soloists; Kelemen String Quartet; Ludmil Angelov and Concertgebouw Chamber Soloists, Amsterdam; Piano Duo Aglika Genova and Liuben Dimitrov as well as by three foreign orchestras: Ural Youth Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Enkhe (Enkhbaatar Baatarjav), soloist Liya Petrova (violin); Hamburger Camerata Orchestra, concertmaster Gustav Frielinghaus, soloist Yoanna Kamenarska (violin) and the Romanian National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Cristian Mandeal, soloist Stefan Cazacu (violoncello) marked the culmination of ensemble melodising at the festival.

Bashmet with his chamber ensemble is loyal to the Bulgarian concert staging. Twelve years following their first concerts on Bulgarian stage in Sofia and Ruse on the Danube, and for the sixth time at Varna Summer, they are again participating in the programme of the festival and though the quartet members have slightly changed over these two decades ago, the core members are recognizable, while their repertory includes both new and familiar opuses and adaptations: Sviridov, Britten, Prokofiev и Schubert. Sviridov’s Chamber Symphony, Op. 14 was initially intended for chamber orchestra. Of their programme, Lachrymae is Britten’s string version for viola and piano of a composition that has already been performed in Bulgaria. Prokofiev’s Seven Vision Fugitives, Op. 22 are an orchestral composition composed as piano pieces in 1917, months prior to the October Revolution 1917. Barshai arranged these ca. 1960 for chamber orchestra; in 1968 these were turned into a ballet score; in 1975 the pieces were used in an animated movie and Roman Balashov had a hand in the present orchestration. The interpretation of Schubert’s Sinfonia in G Major for Strings (orchestration of string quartet No. 15 by Vladimir Kissin), defined as a ‘sinfonia’ in terms of its genre was of importance to the professional audiences for several reasons: to evaluated the complex form and scoring of Schubert’s quartet; to compare the more compact and weighted texture in the orchestral version; to raise objections to the claim for a baroque reference by the orchestrator through the term ‘sinfonia’ as against the romantically tensed and expressively liberated music; to compare the baroque and romantic cyclicism. As to the latter, Kissin has probably drawn courage from the revived in the twentieth century genre term ‘sinfonia’ in Britten and Beriot. Bashmet is not, of course, striving for the delicate tracery, the intimacy, or the set of characters in Schubert’s quartet, working with more compact sounds and colours and retaining the scope of the orchestra and the flow of the musical narrative. The initial enthusiasm for Moscow Soloists aroused by their first visit two decades ago to Ruse and Sofia due to their exquisite professionalism, ensemble, culture of sound, intensity and passionate melodising, has now turned into an anticipated and significant meeting between the audiences and Bashmet and his orchestra, which energizes, encourages and wakes up thought.

Along with the official programme, the world premiere Vocalise for viola and stings by Emil Tabakov was held as giving an encore, composed for this particular ensemble, which Bashmet decided to play almost prima vista with the orchestra. Premieres are significant to all festivals and performance of Bulgarian pieces is an achievement. In a sense, performing Tabakov’s new work was a great occasion, a gift given by Bashmet with the generosity and calibre of a great artist. The music is a spiral of alternating orchestral sections grouped around the melodised core performed by a viola.

Hamburger Camerata Orchestra is of the same ‘generation’, formed in 1989 by friends with the hybrid idea to play a wide range of styles. The orchestra’s standards met that mixed calling. Beside two early symphonies by Haydn и Mozart in the concert of Hamburger Camerata Orchestra, a Bulgarian piece was performed, Michael Pekov’s Nocturne for Two Violins and String Orchestra, the Second Part of his Concerto for Two Violins and String Orchestra. Apart from that, soloist Yoanna Kamenarska (violin) soloed in Mozart’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major, KV 218. Having a surfeit of it, the audience would hardly praise highly the concert due to the sluggish, though diligent orchestral presence.

Two more ensembles deserved their participation in the festival: the Ural Youth Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Enkhe (Enkhbaatar Baatarjav) and soloist Liya Petrova (violin) and the the Romanian National Symphony Orchestra led by Cristian Mandeal, soloist Stefan Cazacu (violoncello).

Liya Petrova stirred up interest internationally by winning a joint first prize with Ji Yoon Lee from South Korea at Carl Nielsen International Music Competition, Odense, Denmark in April 2016. She is a performer having delicate, fine ideas, especially good for the melancholic episodes of Tchaikovsky’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. Still, the skills of the orchestra of mostly young people, pulled together, with remarkable ensemble culture and highly professional instrumentally came as a surprise: they were brilliant in Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in spite of the conductor’s conservatism. The impression of the orchestra, the ensemble cohesion, perfection and marvellous sound was a flashback to other remarkably professionally well-versed youth ensembles visiting Bulgaria: the China National Youth Orchestra for Traditional Music playing traditional instruments, prototypes of those of a classical symphony orchestra (23 July 2013), and guest London Youth Symphony Orchestra at March Music Days, Ruse (26 March 1996).

Cristian Mandeal, together with Horia Andreescu, has been guest conductor to Bulgaria on more than one occasion back in the 1990s, while the Romanian National Symphony Orchestra is among the leading ones along with George Enescu Symphony Orchestra and the Romanian Radio National Orchestra. The last concert I listened to conducted by Mandeal was of the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra performing Bartók, Enescu and Mahler in Bucharest. He is an efficient conductor, working in excellent partnership with the soloists, having vast experience in working with national and foreign orchestras and a wide-ranging repertory. In Romania the Romanian National Symphony Orchestra, formed from the Romanian Youth Orchestra, an artistic and educational 2008 project, is deemed to be a leading world orchestra and opened the elitist George Enescu Festival ‘15 with the participation of Sarah Chang under the baton of Kristjan Järvi. Traditionally, Romanians are known for their brilliant instrumentalists with international careers, which fact was evidenced by that concert.

Against such a backdrop, the last of the symphony and chamber music concerts (17 July 2016) of Pioneer Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Lyubomir Denev Jr can only draw motivation and ideas of stage presence and interpretations.

Three chamber music concerts of this period of Varna Summer are worth commenting: Kelemen String Quartet, Hungary; Piano Duo: Aglika Genova, Liuben Dimitrov; Ludmil Angelov and Concertgebouw Chamber Soloists: Vesko Panteleev-Eschkenazy (violin), Henk Rubingh (violin and viola) and Fred Edelen (violoncello).

Kelemen String Quartet, Hungary brought a brilliant experience at the festival through the musicians of successful individual national and international careers, playing the best instruments: Guarnieri, Testore, Fabris, Galliano, Goffriller.

The quarter, though founded mere six years ago, is firmly established in the elite of the world’s string quartets: very well knit, artistically pronounced, inherently flexible, reactive, versatile, instrumentally perfect. Of the musicians, László Fenyö (violoncello) is popular in Bulgaria as he has been a guest performer on more than one occasion with Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra, and at Varna Summer ‘06 he performed Cello Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, Op. 107 by Shostakovich under the baton of Dian Tchobanov. He won the 2004 International Pablo Casals Contest in Kronberg, Germany; the International Pierre Fournier Music Contest in Geneva; received the Franz Liszt Prize awarded by the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and after being principal cellist of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, László Fenyö joined Kelemen String Quartet.

Piano Duo: Aglika Genova, Liuben Dimitrov is a regular at the festival, but this time they marked the twentieth anniversary since the beginning of their concert activity. Their style and performative taste stood the test of time; they have attracted their own audiences actively following their performances.

The good practice to melodise with friends was followed by Ludmil Angelov and Concertgebouw Chamber Soloists, Amsterdam offering a programme more intriguing than the result achieved afterwards: one of Mozart’s two-part Mannheim sonatas, Sonata for Piano and Violin in G major KV301/293a; the early Beethoven’s Variations on Dittersdorf for Piano, Violin and Cello in E-flat major, Op. 44, intriguing both in terms of their form and technique; Five Pieces for Two Violins and Piano by Shostakovich and an early Brahms’s work: Piano Quartet in G minor, Op. 25.

Henk Rubingh, principal of the second violin section of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and Fred Edelen, assistant principal cellist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, who excelled in musician’s invention and artistry, are among the musicians, who have never before played at the festival.

It was Lev Atovmyan, who arranged Shostakovich’s Five Pieces for Two Violins and Piano, more popular in the West than in Russia. The latter dabbled in composing just to gain prestige rather than having a vocation. By virtue of the fact that he was a member of the Soviet system of nomenklatura in the days of Shostakovich, Atovmyan managed to class with the composer as a compiler of collections of his works and an arranger. In his Five Pieces, Shostakovich apparently had fun composing such elementary à la pub exercises.

Symphony and Chamber Music at Varna Summer

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