I have just returned from a six day trip to Vilnius in Lithuania and during my visit I paid my usual visit to the Philharmonic Hall (Saturday 9 April 2016), accompanied by my friend, colleague and informal tour guide Renata.
What attracted me to the concert was a performance of possibly the greatest orchestral tone poem ever composed, namely “Ein Heldenleben” by Richard Strauss, but also the performance of a violin concerto by a composer called Joseph Achron who, I have to confess I had never heard of.
The soloist in the violin concerto was a young woman by the name of Rūta Lipinaitytė (above) who performed the piece with dazzling virtuosity but with an acute sense of dynamics and sensitivity to the score. The concerto is almost thirty minutes long and is a test for any violinist as there are stretches where the soloist plays unaccompanied and is left very exposed. This was violin playing of the highest order and I am amazed that she seems to be relatively unknown outside the Baltic states and parts of Eastern Europe.
She was accompanied by the Lietuvos Nacionalinis Simfoninis Orkestras under the baton of Alaksandar Markovic, a name I am familiar with as I heard him conduct Janaceks opera Jenufa in Leeds in 2015. Moreover, he will take over as Musical Director of Opera North this year, and hopefully more Janacek will be programmed.
As regards the concerto, what did I make of it? I think it was designed to show off the virtuosity of the violinist, it is in two movements with the orchestra very much in a supporting role and whilst melodic, does not have the memorable themes of such composers as Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn or Sibelius. At times I seemed to hear influences of Gershwin, Bartok but most of all Rimsky-Korsakoff (Scherezade anyone?) and my friend Renata heard elements of Jewish “kletzmer” music in there somewhere.
Is it worth a place in the repertoire, most certainly, and with a champion like Rūta Lipinaitytė I think it could happen.