These recent weeks have been a blessing for the amateur of symphony orchestras. No less than three have visited us from
There was a wonderful debut concert by the Symphonica Toscanini under its founder, now 77-year-old Lorin Maazel, still fit and as usual a wizard of orchestral sonorities, as he demonstrated in his many visits with orchestras from the
The programme was marvelous, a synthesis of Maazel's most apposite repertoire. Roussel's Second Suite from "Bacchus et Ariane", the Dance of the Seven Veils and the final scene from Richard Strauss' "Salome" and two Respighi masterpieces: "Fountains of Rome" and "Fountains of Rome". Fantastically colorful material done ideally by an extremely professional orchestra and a maestro who is always at his very best in this sort of music, with his uncanny ear for transparence and picturesqueness. And with the added pleasure of hearing Nancy Gustafson in her long-delayed debut ; thrice she was announced by the Colón, the first time singing the same Salome scene, and thrice she cancelled due to disagreements. A singer of immense versatility, she doesn't have the clarion voice of a Nilsson but the timbre is good and the volume acceptable, and these rather neutral assets are compensated by an acute musical and dramatic intelligence that gave us a believable Salome even without the stage action.I disagreed with the idea of having an offstage voice (Salo Pasik) telling the plot with melodramatic exaggeration to the audience. Supertitles broke off minutes before the end.
The other concert by the Toscanini was for Nuova Harmonia and I couldn't hear it; it seemed less interesting, with Beethoven's Fifth, repetition of "Pines of Rome" and two Italian overtures. It replaced the cancelled visit of the Verdi Symphony Orchestra.
For both subscription series the Mozarteum presented the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester under Philippe Jordan in two different programmes with baritone Thomas Hampson ; all made their local debuts; it was one of the greatest occasions of the year.The Orchestra was founded by Claudio Abbado in
But there was a further attraction, the belated debut of Hampson, one of the best lyric baritones of his generation (he is close to 50) along with Skovhus and Hvorostovsky, who were heard in BA years ago. Hampson's voice is very beautiful, even poetical, and he uses it with high intelligence and refinement. He sang four of the five Rueckert Lieder (why not all five?), enchanting in "Ich atmet' eine linden Duft", deeply dramatic in "Um Mitternacht" and almost metaphysical in "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen". He also did two early songs in the fine orchestrations by Luciano Berio (probably premieres): "Ich ging mit Lust" from "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" and "Erinnerung" , text by Richard Leander; his "pianissimi" in the former were perfect.
I was pleasantly surprised by the return visit of the "Sinfónica de Euskadi" (Nuova Harmonia) who had been here in 2000 under its conductor Gilbert Varga, a Londoner of Hungarian extraction. Their return showed the orchestra in fine shape and very cosmopolitan in its composition (plenty of Slavs along, naturally, Basque players and from other places) and Varga a most proficient conductor. Their traversal of Shostakovich's desolate and turbulent Tenth Symphony had impact, accuracy and tensile strength, with very good playing from all sectors and intelligent, controlled conducting.
There was a further motive for joy: Bruno Gelber gave his best performance in years solving the difficulties of Rachmaninov's redoubtable Third Concerto with thorough professionalism. The Orchestra lacked some fine points, though. The programme was completed by Francisco Madina's short suite "Orreaga", which means "Roncesvalles"; I felt little sense of history in the pleasant enough music. Encores: a delicate Guridi piece, "Amorosa" (from "Ten Basque Melodies") and Dvorák's Slavonic Dance op. 46 No. 1.
Para el Buenos Aires Herald