Wellington IVC Blog #5 (final)

Kristofer G. Skaug, DVS

Tuesday Sept. 5th, the last day of the 44th International Viola Congress: Fortunately, it has been so busy that there was no time to get nervous about my own lecture this morning, titled “Viola resources, archives and databases worldwide: How to locate and preserve our repertoire“. A joint undertaking with Daphne Gerling (AVS) and Myrna Layton (Primrose International viola Archive), resulting in a combined 40-minute presentation and 10 minutes left for Q&A with the audience. Considering the early time slot at 9AM, the attendance was really good, and there seems to be interest in a follow-up at future IVC congresses.

During the break after our presentation, I went on a shopping spree in the exhibition area and bought a block of “Bespoke Rosin” (can’t wait to find out how that works!), and various books of sheet music. At this point, I also started handing out our super cool IVC Rotterdam stickers, ensuring that everybody brings home a bunch of stickers to distribute among their viola friends.

In the afternoon, the venue once again switched to St. Andrews on the Terrace, where the Augusto Vismara Viola Ensemble gave a much-awaited concert. My expectations were quite high, as there were several premieres on the programme. Unfortunately, one of them was withdrawn because the composer – Augusto Vismara himself – could not make it to the Congress.

The Andante Cantabile for Viola Quartet by Hendrik Waelput is no novelty, but it is rarely performed by a good set of professionals – which evidently is what it takes to make this piece truly interesting. This was followed by two transcriptions of Haydn’s Baryton Trio no.7 and Divertimento no.1. Very well done, although the Italian temper at times took the interpretation a bit to the extreme.

Pietro Mascagni’s instrumental evergreen Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana is always sure to tug at the heartstrings of the audience, but this viola quartet rendition evoked enthusiastic applause above expectations. One could tell that the performers themselves enjoyed it, too.

Robert Kahn (1865-1951) has left us a Serenade (op.73) which is originally for oboe, horn and piano. But he also had the good taste to provide an alternative instrumentation for 2 violas and piano, which was presented here. A very passionate piece of music, but in the end I found it a bit long. Perhaps my ears and mind were just too tired to absorb such a dosage of sound after almost 5 full days of viola music.

The best was saved for last: The world premiere of Waves for four violas and piano, by Giorgio Mirto (1972). It starts calmly, but builds up with John Adams-like ostinatos (mostly with a warm-blooded viola melody on top) and culminates in a lot of Italian temperament before it ebbs back out into the initial serenity.

The applause from the very enthusiastic audience was rewarded with a short recap of the Intermezzo by Mascagni.

For the very last regular presentation session of this congress, I chose to attend Raquel Bastos’ lecture recital “Essencia Urbana: from composition to interpretation“. Raquel discussed the interactions between herself and composer Cecile Elton in the project Essencia Urbana, compositions inspired by Portuguese and Argentinian poetry. She also played different parts of this suite as she went along, and in the end the music itself was (for me) the most memorable part of this presentation.

Just like last year in Cremona, the official Closing Ceremony of the Viola Congress was marked with a performance of the massed viola orchestra, playing a selection of Michael Kimber works under the baton of Marcin Murawski. As one would expect from such an event, there are more violists on stage than in the audience, so it was very successful. Some of us perhaps regretted not having been able to attend all the rehearsals (sorry again, Marcin!). Nevertheless it was worth doing.

So… for the festive celebration of a good congress: The Gala Banquet at the New Zealand Parliament Building (only 5 minutes’ walk from St Andrews) was a very chique event. ANZVS Secretary Greg McGarity and his wife played viola/violin duets by Beriot and others. A very fine performance!

Then came the time for speeches, first by the New Zealanders themselves, and then by IVS president Carlos Maria Solare. He in turn passed the microphone to me, as it is IVC tradition for the Host of the next IVC to have the “famous last words”. My thanks went (and will forever go) to our hosts Donald Maurice and Gillian Ansell, as well as the absolutely amazing congress manager Elyse Dalabakis. The organization was flawless, and the heartwarming hospitality was way, way, way (!) beyond call of duty.

It was an emotional moment for me to publicly blow out the candle for this year’s congress, and at the same time welcoming all Violists near and far to our congress in Rotterdam next year, with the words: “Tot ziens in Nederland“!