lunes, agosto 27, 2007

Zukerman and Goerner: highlights of the season

Music lovers hear every year a number of good concerts along with mediocre ones. A few are outside the norm: or downright bad or exceptional. In the latter category, never abundant, I place the Zukerman Chamber Players and Argentine pianist Nelson Goerner, both at AMIJAI, a venue that this year is offering highlights of the season, along with less exalted occasions.

Pinchas Zukerman has visited us often during his long career, as violin virtuoso, chamber player or conductor of the St Paul Chamber Orchestra. Apart from his purely technical accomplishment, Zukerman has always been deeply musical, an artist and artisan, a master of easy but compelling dialogue with his fellow players, always very well chosen. At 59 he's as good as ever and still has the knack of finding quality collaborators, witness the wonderful results of the first concert of the Zukerman Chamber Players (I couldn't attend their other concert). The same characteristics prevailed in the three attractive scores they played: a consistently admirable technique blended with a natural sense of style and an evident pleasure in playing together, true conversations in music.

Zukerman and a talented lady cellist, Amanda Forsyth, started the session with Kodály's fascinating Duo , a prickly piece of considerable modernism, perhaps the composer's point of greatest affinity with his friend Bartók; both players were full of character. Then, one of the two best String Quintets by Mozart (two violins, two violas, cello), K. 593, a past master of this medium, where one could appreciate the excellent work of the other players: Jessica Linnebach (violin), Jethro Marks and Ashan Pillai (violas). The same group gave us Dvorák's Quintet op.97, a sterling work rarely heard. The encore was the charming second movement of Mendelssohn's Quintet op.87.

I have long held the opinion that Nelson Goerner is the best Argentine pianist of his generation; both the recital I'm about to comment and his appearance with orchestra playing Beethoven's Concerto No.3 (on which I will soon write) were stunning affirmations of artistry in a superior level. Even the programme testified to the player's astonishing versatility, avoiding the hackneyed but giving us worthwhile music by great composers. He started with Janácek's only Sonata, a two-movement score of dramatic intensity, the composer's reaction to an act of political repression: the two pieces are called "Presentment" and "Death" . The second work was Schumann's "Humoreske", less known than other series of micropieces by this composer but an original and fresh score of many moods, magisterially exposed by the player.

The piano music of Franz Liszt is both innovative and rhetorical; the player must have the big guns to play it accurately (always a feat in this composer) but also the style to go beyond the technical hurdles and find the poetry in the scores; this was ideally encompassed by Goerner's performances of the stirring Ballad No. 2 and of four "Transcendental Etudes" of terrifying difficulty. I have very seldom heard blind octaves at speed played flawlessly as in this instance, but the deeper sense of the music was always there at well. The pleasure was prolonged in the encores, two impeccably done Chopin pieces: Nocturne No. 8 and the "Revolutionary" Etude. What a pity that the audience was too sparse .

On a less exalted level but very good by any standard were two Midday Concerts, the free series the Mozarteum offers at the Gran Rex. The Moreno-Capelli Duo has been for decades an exemplar of fine four-hand playing; Héctor Moreno and Norberto Capelli are Argentine but reside in Florence. Both have accomplished techniques and finely honed taste. Their interesting programme started with an intimate Schubert score, "Divertissement a l'hongroise", perhaps overlong for its material; they followed with the "War Pages" by Alfredo Casella, frankly descriptive music , and finally offered a good transcription by Liszt of his own tone poem "The Preludes", played with virtuosity.

The Sarastro Quartet resides in Winterthur, Switzerland; the sage priest of Mozart's "Magic Flute" was chosen for the ensemble's name. They are refined players with a beautiful intimate sound hard to appreciate in the vast expanses of the Gran Rex. They feature unfamiliar music stressing contemporary Swiss composers but also an Argentine, Constantino Gaito, whose two quartets they recorded for the Tradition label. Their unconventional programme started with an early Mozart Quartet (No.4, K.157), followed with Fabian Mueller's Quartet, a Swiss born in 1964, and ended with Gaito's Quartet No. 1. Mueller's score is tonal and melodic, well-written and expressive, whilst Gaito's 1916 work manages to steer clear of the prevalent folkloric stance of his time and gives us well-argued and pleasant music. The encore was Puccini's lovely "Chrysanthemums". All was played with distinction. The Sarastro also gave two concerts for the Festival of Encuentros de Música Contemporánea, which I couldn't attend.

Finally, the Stanislas Quartet from Nancy , France. The venue was the concert hall of the National Conservatorium López Buchardo, where they gave a master class earlier in the afternoon. It is a solid, serious ensemble, more at ease in Ravel's only Quartet than in Beethoven's last, No. 16. They included an interesting item; Guy-Ropartz (1864-1955) was a distinguished composer resident in Nancy in the interwar period and is rarely programmed nowadays, which made the audition of his Quartet No. 5 useful as information; fortunately it proved to be good music well worth the listener's time.

Para el Buenos Aires Herald

1 comentario:

Anónimo dijo...

I agree 100% with your comments about Goerner. He is a unique artist, among the 5 best in he world on my opinion (among Argerich, Lupu, Pollini, Zimmermann, Kissin) and deserves much more attention. Unfortunately, "the business system" doesn't care about music only (ref Lang Lang - Bang Bang...!!). However, soon or late, everybody will recognize him!