Riga Festival

  • 2016-06-02
  • Michael Mustillo

Riga’s annual classical star studded Riga Festival kicked of with an electrifying sold out concert on May 27 at the Latvian National Opera with one of the world’s great orchestras, the London Symphony Orchestra. Conducted by Antonio Pappano and featuring violin soloist Nikolaj Znaider. The program featured Beethoven’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, and Edward Elgar’s Second Symphony.

The premiere of Beethoven’s concert on Dec. 23, 1806 in the Theatre an der Wien in Vienna was not a success, and the concerto was little performed in the following decades. Though Znaider commanded complete technical mastery of the work (with his Guarneri “del Gesu” violin built in 1741 and previously played by the legendary violinist Fritz Kreisler. The violin is thus known as the “Ex-Kreisler Guarnerius,” and is on loan to Znaider from the The Royal Danish Theater), the acoustics of the Latvian National Opera rendered the work without energy. The solo violin part did not project and the lyrical and dynamic nature of the work lost.

The London Symphony exhibited its technical brilliance in Elgar’s second symphony. Every section of this great orchestra shone and deserved the standing ovation that was given to both orchestra and conductor. Called “the passionate pilgrimage of the soul,” it was Elgar’s last completed symphony. His Third Symphony begun in 1933, but was cut short by the composer’s death in 1934.

A memorable evening, which would only have been highlighted further with hearing a great world orchestra, in a great concert hall. Discussions are currently underway in Riga for the building of a much needed iconic concert hall for the Latvian capital, which has lagged behind regional cities in the country, in efforts in building a hall worthy of great music, great orchestras, great artists, and which would assist the development of the Latvian classical music scene.

Another Riga Festival highlight featuring an international world renown orchestra,  includes the appearance at the festival of  the Budapest Festival Orchestra. The orchestra will be conducted by the Hungarian conductor, Ivan Fischer. The concert will feature the Hungarian pianist, performing in  Franz Liszt Second Piano Concerto. The program will also feature  Antonin Dvorak’s  Eighth Symphony, and Igor Stravinsky’s Jeu de Cartess. The concert commences at 20:00,  at Riga’s Great Guild Hall.

Regarded as one of the Hungarian music scene’s major success stories, the Budapest Festival Orchestra is rated among the world’s leading  orchestras.
The orchestra has won two Gramophone Awards, the ‘Oscars of classical music’, and has also been nominated for a Grammy Award.

Ivan Fischer, the orchestra’s long term conductor and founder of the orchestra,  has held principal conductor position’s  with the National Symphony Orchestra, in Washington, D.C. He was the Music Director of the Opera National de Lyon, in France, principal artist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and Music Director of the Konzerthaus Berlin and principal conductor of the Konzerthausorchester Berlin.
From the Hungarian piano soloist Denes Varjon, expect the display of  “immaculate technique” and a “tangible sense of character.’’