Making an Effort

To listen is an effort, and just to hear is no merit. A duck hears also. – Igor Stravinsky

2nd November – Avi Avital and the Cologne Academy

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Mandolin: Avi Avital

Orchestra: The Cologne Academy Chamber Orchestra

Venue: Hong Kong City Hall, Concert Hall

Vivaldi – Concerto in F major Autumn from The Four Seasons RV 293

Bach – Violin Concerto in G minor BWV 1056 (arr. Avital)

Vivaldi – Concerto in F minor Winter from The Four Seasons RV 297

Bach – Violin Concerto in A minor BWV 1041 (arr. Avital)

Bloch – Nigun from Baal Shem

Bartók – Romanian Folk Dances

Falla – Danse Espagnol

Tsintsadze – Georgian Folk from Eight Miniatures Tunes

I wasn’t so sure about buying a ticket to this concert at first. However, I knew the name, Avi Avital is quite prominent at the moment- probably due to following Wigmore Hall‘s Twitter feed and hearing of his collaboration with Mahan Esfahani, the harpsichordist.  I looked at the programme and saw that it consisted of equal measures of Baroque and folk music, both of which I enjoy, so why not go and experience it?!

As the players of the Cologne Academy walked onstage, I was surprised that the ensemble was mostly women. This was quite a nice observation to make as it is usually the opposite that is seen. Avi Avital and the conductor arrived and Avital sat on a chair near the front of the stage, but unfortunately for me the conductor was standing directly in my line of view! I was at the front and just at the wrong angle, but it really is all about listening to the music! The first half was Vivaldi and Bach which I enjoyed. The second half was based on folk music. Avital was fantastic on the mandolin and the balance between orchestra and soloist was excellent.

During the second half of the concert, Avital paused to talk about the concert and the pieces noting the themes of the two halves. He talked more about the pieces in the second half of the concert including the pieces by Tsintsadze, who he said many people may not have heard of and therefore may not have heard the music before. I had looked in the programme and noticed that one of the Tsintsadze pieces was called ‘Indi Mindi’ which rang a bell with me. So when I was listening to the music I recognized several sections, especially ‘Indi Mindi’ which I was quite excited about. I realized that I had a CD – probably from BBC Music Magazine around 20 years ago that was called ‘St Petersburg Classics’. I did get to mention my familiarity to ‘Indi Mindi’ to Avital afterwards, and he asked if I was a cellist as Tsintsadze wrote music for cello, but I told him that I had heard a chorale version of it on an old CD. He did comment that it was quite rare for someone to be familiar with this piece.

A mandolin concert is probably not everyone’s first choice, but Avital really makes the instrument and the music come alive, with his playing and programme choice. I would definitely recommend anyone to see Avital in concert, whether it is classical, folk or jazz that he is performing!

Avi Avital: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

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