lunes, mayo 28, 2007

Byways of the Baroque bring surprising experiences

Both Festivales Musicales and Nuova Harmonia have recently provided surprising experiences in the Baroque field. They are indeed byways, well apart from the Bach-Handel-Vivaldi trilogy. They show how rich and varied that era was, and why it is rewarding to explore .

Festivales started its season with a lovely concert of the Ensemble Louis Berger at the Avenida. Notwithstanding their French-sounding appellation, this is an Argentinian group that has taken for its own the name and surname of an outstanding French jesuit musician who did marvelous work in such areas as Chiquitos (Bolivia). During these last thirty years the steady work of musicologists has unveiled unsuspected treasures in remote areas and has shown there is an important Baroque repertoire, still mostly unknown though hundreds of manuscripts have been found, untouched since the eighteenth century. What we heard was a selection of the Chiquitos trove, and it was a moving event.

Their concert was entitled "Music at the Jesuitic Missions" and it included mostly anonymous works in Spanish, chiquitano, latin and guaraní. All pieces are to be found at the Chiquitos Musical Archive. The group boasts a special set of instruments; although it existed in Europe, it's very rare to hear a "tromba marina", a tall instrument with only one string played with a bow and giving out the sound of a harsh trumpet. And what's decidedly new: the "bajunes", immense Panpipes that give a beautiful effect. The ensemble also has a vocal quartet of normal constitution.

The anonymous pieces were a procession, "Jesus Christ Our Lord" (repeated at the end, it brought the artists to the foyer), a litany for two voices in chiquitano (""Ane Nupaqsiuma suchetania", or "We have a sorrowful Mother"), a "Cánite, pláudite" ("Sing, applaud") – a very brilliant piece to end the First Part-, and four pieces in guaraní ("Mother of God", "Litany", "In the great fire of Hell" and "Listen, men"). These last four had a special emotional effect. Otherwise, we had plenty of Domenico Zipoli, the Italian that died in America as a priest after an important European career: "Thanks, Our God" (authenticated) in chiquitano, with "tromba marina" and "bajunes" ; a Trio Sonata (attributed) and "In hoc mundo", a motet (attributed). And finally, an interesting "Fugued Mass" attributed to Giovanni Battista Bassani, a European author whose music was found at the Chiquitos Archive. The Ensemble Louis Berger is a committed group of high standard; I will only single out the intense expressivity of soprano Ana María Santorelli.

Some people felt that the concert by La Barroca del Suquía led by Manfredo Kraemer (also at the Avenida) had been a waste of fine talent; I didn't. The ensemble hails from our Córdoba (Suquía is the river that traverses the city) and is equal to the good European Baroque ensembles. The programme was called "Sonorous tableaux from Biber to Boccherini" and it certainly shows an excentric type of Baroque, based on the picturesque , the descriptive and the humorous. You won't find in these pieces prodigies of counterpoint but you will encounter harmonic surprises, influences of popular and folk music, special effects, etc. Nothing profound nor memorable, but often fun; some are admittedly a trifle too trivial. Kraemer presented unacademically but precisely each piece.

The concert started with the only non-Baroque score, Boccherini's "The night music of the Madrid streets" (1780), which ends with the Retreat of the soldiers . Three authors are little-known today, and they hail from Central Europe: Pavel Vejvanovsky , "Sonata a 6 Campanarum"; Johann Valentin Meder, "The Polish beggar"; and Philipp Jakob Rittler, "Harmonia Romana". More substantial were the scores by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (1644-1704), an important musician at Salzburg's court: his "Battalia" is vivid and imaginative, and "The Procession of the peasants to the church" was acted out by the players. Encores: a sonata imitating the nightingale and the cuckoo by a Theodor Schwarzkopf, and an astonishing Telemann piece, "The Muscovites", from the suite "Peoples" ("Voelker") with almost jazzy syncopations.

The "Cappella della Pietá dei Turchini" payed us a second visit starting the Nuova Harmonia season at the Coliseo. It is a group specialized in the Neapolitan Baroque, very rich and little-known. They opted for a programme that put the accent on heavy comedy of "Commedia dell'arte" derivation. Certainly all pieces were new for our city, as was the rest of the music they played. Those that gave musical quality to the evening were written by composers of the Classicist era: two splendid fragments from Niccoló Piccinni's "Didone" ("opera seria"), and Giovanni Paisiello's Duet of Pulcinella and Carmosina from "Pulcinella vendicato". I was sorry that the two greatest Neapolitans were not included: Alessandro Scarlatti and G.B.Pergolesi. There were two good instrumental scores: "Sonata a 3 " in G minor (a concerto grosso) by Pietro Marchitelli (1643-1729) and the Second Sonata for strings by Domenico Gallo, whose first movement was adapted by Stravinsky for his "Pulcinella" (he thought it was by Pergolesi).

Apart from Paisiello, comedy was represented by Francesco Provenzale (1624-1704): the parody-lament "Squarciato appena havea"; Michelangelo Fagioli (1666-1733): cantata "Sto.Paglietta presuntuoso"; and Giuseppe Petrini's intermezzo "Graziello e Nella". There was a charming encore: José de Nebra's :Fandango". I liked soprano Maria Ercolano, intense and with a fine technique; I disliked the mincing, affected interpretations of tenor Giuseppe De Vittorio. The players under Antonio Florio were quite good.

Para el Buenos Aires Herald

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