Thursday, 9 August 2018
Leonskaja embraces the Pärnu spirit
Shouldn't pre-empt too much the Pärnu Music Festival piece I owe The Arts Desk for the fourth successive year, this time ahead of the Estonian Festival Orchestra's Prom on Monday (for which, I'm proud to say, I played my campaigning part). UPDATE (13/8) - here it is. But I have to recapture the amazement of turning up at the first concert of the week, less than an hour off the coach from Riga, to be knocked sideways by the opening work on the programme. From the website, we knew to expect the excellent Eldbjørg Hemsing in Massenet's Meditation from Thaïs and Saint-Saëns's Introdcution and Rondo Capriccioso, as well as the Järvi Academy Sinfonietta in Musica Profana by Lepo Sumera, the Estonian composer whose symphonies knocked me for six in the 2016 and 2017 Estonian Music Days.
The rest, however, had been put together over the past week. Elisabeth Leonskaja, my goddess among pianists, here to play the Grieg Piano Concerto with the Estonian Festival Orchestra - which she did, with unique deep musicianship, last night - decided she wanted to get involved with the players in chamber music. Hence Beethoven's early Quintet for piano and winds, also like you never heard it before nor will again. Two of my other favourite players in the world, EFO regular clarinettist Matthew Hunt and horn master Alec Frank-Gemmill, were there alongside her, to my amazement - Matt (pictured with Leonskaja above - all photos by the superlative Kaupo Kikkas) knows her well and they sea-bathed together at 8am on several mornings -
plus two other superb wind players not known to me, José Luis Garcia Vegara (whose playing in La Valse last night was out of this world) and bassoonist Jesús Villa Ordóñez (much Hunt humour about 'playing with Jesus').
'Lisa' wanted broad, floated playing, taxing the winds to the very extremes of their breath control, but she was right to ask for it. As for how good it was, don't ask me but rather Triin Ruubel, co-leader of the EFO but unable to travel with them this year because of her advanced pregnancy. I met her on my way into the hall here yesterday to witness Arvo Pärt listening to a rehearsal of his Third Symphony - it's that kind of place - and she said she had to leave the concert after the Quintet because she had 'never heard a more perfect performance in my life'.
The following evening, Triin contributed to the unearthliness of a real underrated near-masterpiece, Eduard Oja's Piano Quintet, which Leonskaja had also undertaken to learn and more or less conducted from the piano: stunning, unforgettable. That's the two of them above with Triin's fellow violinist Adela-Maria Bratu. But that, and the rest of this amazing week, must wait until later coverage... Next, however, was this, from yesterday's rehearsal of Pärt's Third Symphony. Photo by Karima Morooka Elsamny.