sábado, octubre 21, 2006

Choirs and vocal soloists, a survey

The human voice is a source of aesthetic pleasure. This simple truth was proved again by some recent events concerning both choirs and vocal soloists. Michel Corboz has visited us often; now in his seventies, the Swiss conductor is a past master of the choral-symphonic repertoire. Festivales Musicales brought him back to offer at the Colón a very famous score, the Requiem by Mozart completed by Suessmayr, and the premiere of the Emperor Mass by Antonio Salieri. The latter is a sunny composition for chorus and orchestra written in 1789 and it features very elegant instrumental solos (violin, cello). Succinct (23 minutes) and pleasant, it was informative for the audience. Corboz opted wisely for a rather small chorus (the Orfeón de Buenos Aires numbered on this occasion 42 voices; it was prepared by Néstor Andrenacci and Pablo Piccinni) and orchestra (the Camerata Bariloche plus some winds and tympani, a total of 33 players). Some thought this was too light for the Requiem, and I did feel a lack of weight, but I believe this is due to the predominantly quite young choir singers whose voices will surely be more rounded as time goes on. The conductor’s phrasing was unerring and both works got its proper style, though a few blemishes would have been surely corrected with more rehearsal. In Salieri there were correct solos by Fernando Hasaj (violin) and Viktor Aepli (cello). The vocal soloists were variable: clear as a bell soprano Soledad de la Rosa, uneven mezzosoprano Susanna Moncayo, in the Mozartian tradition tenor Carlos Ullán, and very musical Víctor Torres, who however is a baritone , not the required bass. Festivales’ “daughter”, the Bach Academy, offered a valuable concert at the Central Methodist Church, with the premiere of J.S.Bach’s Cantata No. 196, “Der Herr denket an uns” (“The Lord remembers us”) and the ample “Vesperae Solennes de Confessore” K. 339 by Mozart. The Bach work is one of his earliest, written in 1708 at Muehlhausen and Arnstadt, and only last 15 minutes: a symphony, two choruses, a soprano aria and a tenor/baritone duet. This nuptial cantata is hardly major Bach but it adds to our knowledge of his young years. The Mozart “Vespers” are more substantial: they are based on five famous psalms and the Magnificat, and show Mozart’s mastery of the Salzburg sacred style. The ensemble Selva Vocal e Instrumental conducted by Andrés Gerszenzon already has an important trajectory; the conjunction of period instruments and voices trained in the right eighteenth-century styles certainly has borne fruit. The best solo voices were Silvina Sadoly (soprano) and Sergio Carlevaris (baritone), with weaker results from Ana Santorelli (soprano), Pablo Pollitzer (tenor) and Pablo Travaglino (countertenor). As usual, there were interesting comments by Mario Videla. La Bella Música, the organisation led by Patricia Pouchulu, gave us at the Auditorio de Belgrano a wonderful combination of two important works led by that nonpareil conductor of choral-symphonic music, Antonio Russo. He chose the oratorio version of Haydn’s “The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour in the Cross” (the original is for string quartet!) and Mendelssohn’s fascinating cantata “The First Walpurgis Night” on the Goethe text from “Faust” concerning a Druid confrontation with Christian guards. The Haydn score has an inherent problem: except for the final Earthquake all the music is either middling slow or quite slow. But the conductor’s sense of flow and fine phrasing minimized the problem and put the accent on beautiful line and clarity of texture. Mendelssohn has always been a specialty of Russo . His performance had controlled but red-hot intensity, at times quite searing. A disciplinarian in the right sense, he got fine collaboration from an ad-hoc “La Bella Música Orchestra” based on the Colón’s one, and the Asociación Coral Lagun Onak under Miguel Angel Pesce. The vocal soloists in Haydn were adequate: Laura Delogu (soprano), Alicia Alduncín (contralto), Ricardo González Dorrego (tenor) and Román Modzelewski (bass). In Mendelssohn the very young contralto Mariana Carnovali really impressed me, and I liked the strength of character of baritone Mauricio Thibaud. Modzelewski was less convincing here, and Hernán Sánchez Arteaga, a replacement for Ullán, seemed rather green but strong-voiced. Two recitals by mezzo-sopranos had divergent results. I was attracted to the start of the Pilar Golf cycle both by the artists (Cecilia Díaz with pianist Fernando Pérez) and the repertoire: songs by nineteenth-century operatic composers from France and Italy. Alas, it proved that Díaz is much better suited to opera than song; although she gave much thought to the programme and studied it diligently, she had trouble in paring her voice down and there were some intonation blemishes and tight high sounds. Pérez was wonderful throughout, though. It was nice to get to know some rare pieces, such as Rossini’s “L’orpheline du Tyrol” and Bizet’s “La coccinelle”. The chairs in the hall have been redistributed and there are now much better sightlines. I heard only half of Virginia Correa Dupuy’s Mozart recital for Ars Nobilis (postponed due to illness) at the Sociedad Científica Argentina, but it was enough to confirm her as a splendid Mozartian combining vocal prowess with exquisite style. The almost romantic “Abendempfindung”, the charming “Dans un bois solitaire” and the big dramatic scene “Ah, lo previdi!” were very well done with fine accompaniment from José Luis Juri, who also played very nicely two light Sonatas by Duschek. 10/08/06 para el Buenos Aires Herald

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