sábado, octubre 21, 2006

The Baroque and Classicism in good hands

By now the historicist movement not only affects our view of the Baroque (and earlier music of Medieval and Renaissance times) but it is also exploring Classicist times and the Romantics, for it basically tries to approximate the executional practices of those periods. We music lovers have had plenty of illuminating experiences in recent decades, and even if veterans like me still like their I Musici recordings, there’s a lot to be said for the historicist approach. A number of recent visitors have proved it yet again. The Akademie fuer Alte Musik Berlin (The Berlin Academy for Old Music) had a big success here two years ago. Now they were invited back by the Mozarteum to their two cycles at the Colón; they left the Baroque and their two programmes were either all-Mozart or Mozart and contemporaries. One piece was present in both: the feted composer’s motet “Exsultate jubilate”, often done here in recent months. Korean soprano Yeree Suh (debut) has a small voice that she handles with accuracy in a rather dry manner; I prefer this music with an ampler, creamier voice, but her florid singing was good. There were other soloists in the all-Mozart first concert: Midori Seiler (debut, Japanese mother and German father) is one of the ensemble’s concertinos, and she played with fine intonation and some charm Concerto No.2 K.211. It takes some time to accustom oneself to the rather gruff tone of the period bassoon , but once assimilated one could enjoy Christian Beuse’s fluid playing of the Bassoon Concerto K.191. Led by concertino Georg Kallweit the 22-player ensemble , which includes strings, organ, flute, oboes, bassoon and horns, showed a refined technical level and style in Divertimento K. 138 and Symphony No. 29, both very well-known works. I found the second programme more interesting, for we were offered a quite worthwhile surprise, certainly a premiere: the Symphony in G minor by Franz-Ignaz Beck (1734-1809), strong, intense music worthy of comparison to a Mozart of good standard. In fact, better than his early Symphony No. 10, K.74 and on a par with F.J. Haydn’s most agreeable Symphony No. 3, Hob. 1:3 , also heard on this occasion. There was also limpid playing by flutist Christoph Huntgeburth of Mozart’s Concerto K.313. The ensemble was always accurate and stylish. A small group from London, the Ensemble Florilegium (debut), played at the Avenida for Festivales Musicales in their Mozart & Salieri series. Its Artistic Director is the splendid flutist Ashley Solomon, who uses a wooden instrument of authentic 18th century sound, sweet and rather small. The other executants are professional but not very exciting: Rodolfo Richter, violin; Jennifer Morsches, cello; and Ina Pritchard, fortepiano and organ. The fortepiano proved to have a very weak sound and as we so rarely hear such instruments here I wonder if Mozart’s could be so fragile considering such music as his Sonata No. 8, certainly very dramatic. I am inclined to think that this particular fortepiano was too soft. The programme was changed, and for the better. The First Part proved uninteresting, for there was second-rate Mozart (Church Sonatas K.274 and 245, and “Divertimento No.2 K.439”, wrongly described thus: it is really the second of 5 Divertimenti App.229, Einstein 439b, originally for two clarinets and bassoon, in an unspecified arrangement). And Salieri’s Ode “Deh, si piacevoli” and “Il Genio degli Stati Veneti” were to most listeners merely informative about the run-of-the-mill talent of that composer, though it allowed us to hear the fresh voice of Katia Escalera, brought along for the tour, a Bolivian soprano that had sung here before in something utterly different, one of the Valkyries last year. Things picked up in Telemann’s splendid “Paris Quartet” in G major, vital Baroque done with plenty of character. It was published in 1738 and its proper description is TWV 43:G4. The Second Part started with arrangements of arias and a duet from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute”, agreeable and apposite enough, especially Monostatos’ airy and fleeting tune. (My Grove dictionary doesn’t list this arrangement, probably not Mozart’s). We then heard an ad-hoc “Divertissement” made up by the artists combining instrumental and vocal pieces. The former: “Allegro, Menuett I and II” K. 46, and “Allegro, Andante and Polonaise”, K.487; both have problems of nomenclature which should have been clear (Festivales is generally more serious about such matters): K.46 is an arrangement for string quintet not made by Mozart of his Serenade K.361; and K. 487 is described as “12 duets for 2 wind instruments”; so, you see, we were offered arrangements for flute, violin, cello and keyboard with no clarification of the exact situation. Anyway, this was pleasant but hardly important Mozart. To the rescue came his two lovely Lieder, “Abendempfindung” and “An Chloe”, in classy versions by Escalera, who showed a beautiful voice and fine style. And some Johann Sebastian Bach brought us back to the Baroque in convincing fashion: although an arrangement, it is apparently Bach’s own of his Triosonata in G BWV 525 originally for organ, and it works well as chamber music. Also it was beautifully played by the artists. A fine encore: that wonderful aria, “Mio caro bene” from Handel’s “Rodelinda”, in an exquisite version by Escalera and Florilegium. I always hope to hear original versions; we have plenty to choose from without having recourse to alternative textures. 14/09/06 para el Buenos Aires Herald

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