sábado, octubre 21, 2006

Of pianists and chamber players

Along with the big numbers, which nowadays are the orchestras of different sizes, musical associations also offer sessions in a smaller scale. There have been some worthwhile recent events in that line. Gabriela Montero is a Venezuelan pianist of brilliant attainments which has been heard here before under the auspices of the Argerich Festival and of the Mozarteum Argentino. The latter institution brought her over again for a difficult programme repeated for both cycles at the Colón. She has a vigorous temperament and a technique equal to all difficulties. Beethoven’s Sonata No. 21, “Waldstein”, is certainly one of his masterpieces; she was arguably too free in some bits but mostly she gave us the brio and coherence of this great work, and she was poetic in the veiled beginning of the third movement. She came fully into her own in the turbulent Rachmaninov Sonata No. 2 (final version), which was played as the hurricane it is. And she gave each character piece of Schumann’s “Carnival” its due, charm and lilt to the waltzes, bravura to “Paganini”, a dreamlike quality to “Eusebius” and momentum to the final March of the Davidsbuendler against the Philistines. The encores were given over to her famous improvisations, certainly skilled and agreeable, based mostly on Caribbean rhythms and melodic formulas applied to any material suggested by the public or by herself. Horacio Lavandera is the best Argentine pianist of his generation (he’s in his early twenties) and now lives in Spain. His recital at the Auditorio de Belgrano kept to the premises of Festivales Musicales’ season: Mozart and Salieri. But one of the scores was by neither of those composers: the Sonata we heard by Marianne d’Auenbrugg (premiere) is the sole extant work we have from her, and I found it a charming example of Classicism (the thin reason for its inclusion is that it was found together with some odes by Salieri, who was her teacher). Mozart’s Variations on a theme by Salieri started the session, and the First Part was completed rather incongruously by the piano transcription of a Salieri overture: “Eraclito e Democrito” (premiere), standard quality. All this was marvelously played by Lavandera, but it was only in the Second Part that he played great music and had equal success in it: those amazing scores, Fantasy K. 475 and Sonata No.14 , K. 457, both in C minor, are of the most prophetic and fascinating music Mozart ever composed. The pianist’s encores were two Prokofiev-like Guillaume Connesson pieces, dazzlingly played, and Chopin’s Nocturne No. 13, very sensitive. A by-invitation concert with Swedish pianist Helge Antoni (debut, born 1956) at the Golden Hall of the Casa de la Cultura proved a valuable cross-section of Nordic music. With fine mechanism and sensitive phrasing we heard pieces by the Norwegian Edvard Grieg, the Finn Jan Sibelius, the Estonian Arvo Paert, the Swedish Emil Sjoegren and Wilhelm Stenhammar and the Dane Christian Sinding, most of it Late Romantic music of pronounced charm and character. The Jewish institution AMIJAI has a splendid building at Arribenios near the Chinese quarter, and it doubles as a synagogue and a concert hall of very good acoustics. This year they are offering an international subscription series and it started with a recital by Russia’s famed violinist Shlomo Mintz (who also played on another occasion Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with the Orquesta Académica) and Czech pianist Petr Jiríkovsky (debut). Mintz has been here before both as soloist and as leader of the Israel Chamber Orchestra and left an optimum impression (his records are splendid too). On this visit I was less impressed, mostly because his sound is no longer as round and beautiful as it used to be: nowadays his playing is fiercer and at times rather harsh. His programme was rather interesting, as it featured two not often played works by great composers: Richard Strauss’ rather too discursive Sonata op. 18, and Stravinsky’s Divertimento, a transcription extracted from the ballet “The fairy’s kiss” on Tchaikovsky piano pieces. I feel the later orchestral version functions much better, for it alleviates through orchestration the excessive dissonant charge. We also heard Vitali’s Chaconne, a rather doubtful Baroque piece; and Paganini’s “La Campanella” in the shortened Kreisler version (it is much more developed as the last movement of Concerto No. 2). The encores were Sarasate showpieces (“Zapateado” and “Gypsy airs”). Of course Mintz still has plenty of technique even if one yearns at times for smoother and more pliant tone. Jiríkovsky accompanied proficiently but drily, Strauss in particular needing much more warmth. Also at AMIJAI, I enjoyed the Mozart recital offered by Rafael Gintoli (violin) and Aldo Antognazzi (piano). Although the chosen sonatas were too close chronologically for enough variety, the playing was very professional in the case of Gintoli and wholly admirable in Antognazzi’s. The violinist was firm and clear though conventional. The pianist had an ideal combination of fine mechanism and pristine style. Each phrase was lovingly moulded with just enough expression and perfect taste. The Sonatas were K. 302, 304, 305 and 306 and they were wrongly numbered in the hand programme (e.g., they give K. 302 as No. 2 when it’s really No. 19 ). They also played the 12 variations K. 359 on “La Bergere Célimene”. This concert was the second of a series of two on the principal Mozart sonatas for violin and piano. 11/06/06 para el Buenos Aires Herald

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