The Armenian Devil Wears Satin

Rheingoldhalle, Mainz
Thursday,  April 28th 2011
Staatsorchester Rheinische Philharmonie
Schöpferische Früchte


First of all: Doesn’t the title say it all? I do not know whether it was because of him but the Rheingoldhalle was packed! See, I’m so excited I’d love to start straightaway with his performance, but let’s start at the beginning. I’ll come back to him later.

Carl Maria von Weber’s overture to The Ruler of the Spirits, a piece from 1811, was a perfect entrance for the Staatsorchester. The soft, airy flute at the beginning and the loud tutti were flawless, the general rests clear and all in all really harmonic. I was under the impression that the timpani was a tiny bit to early, but apart from that the orchestra played technically impaccably.

Hrachya Avanesyan, the gentleman on the photo above, was a special guest indeed! The young soloist from Armenia made quite an extraordinary an entrance – his long dark hair waving, dressed in black cord trousers and a black satin shirt with black glitter applications and red ruffles on sleeves and collar (I sound like a fashion critic, sorry ;)). Why not? Why shouldn’t men be able to show some taste and courage and wear something more exciting than a tux when female soloists get to wear the most stunning gowns? Well, anyway.
Avanesyan performed Johannes Brahms’ only Violin Concerto op.77 with such exceptional enthusiasm and such skill, it almost took your breath away. Though the orchestra seemed a little too loud at the beginning for Avanesyan’s delicate notes he soon developed a stunning flow with complex fingering, double stops and amazing speed. One could see how concentrated he was, yet passionate and hugely talented. His 18th century violin had a lovely, sweet sound on the high notes and a full, vibrant sound on the low strings.

His face showed that he really felt the music, only once slipping off his flageolett. The gripping solo passage in the 1st movement was flawlessly intonated – an outstanding performance on the whole!
What I appreciated was Avanesyan’s encore – in contrast to Stefan Dohr  (see my post from April 1st) he played something individual to show off his talent: a traditional Armenian folk song from Alexander Comitas. This was a most pleasurable experience – a melancholic piece which contained delicate, extremely high notes played as flageoletts (the audience was so enamoured, you could practically hear the bow gliding over the strings), lots of double stops and an almost Asian flair. I was most impressed!

The concert concluded with César Franck’s 2nd Symphony in d-minor (1886-88), consisting of three movements. The first, a rather dark and elegiac piece, was played brilliantly by the orchestra, enabling the audience to hear a piece with cancan-elements and an almost gershwinesque touch, which I consider quite remarkable for this time. In the 2nd part, the strings’ pizzicati are joined by the entrancing sound of a harp, continuing with a motive played by the winds. Especially the more quiet passages were precisely played. The 3rd movement was a fresh and opulent tutti, repeating the motives from the 1st movement. The only thing that was a bit annoying was the awful stench that filled the hall after the break, wherever it came from.

All in all it was a successful evening with an exceptional soloist – it is definitely apparent why  these concerts are called Meisterkonzerte.

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