sábado, abril 12, 2008

Lavandera plays our composers; Vieu conducts Colón Orchestra

Horacio Lavandera is undoubtedly the most famous Argentine pianist of his generation. He was a teenager prodigy, playing arduous programmes at 15 with fantastic technical prowess. Now he is 24 and has been living in Spain for several years, but comes back to our country regularly. Many composers have written scores especially for him, revelling in his enormous speed and uncanny accuracy. I have often felt that his interpretative gifts aren't commensurate to his mechanical ones, but I have almost always been stunned at his concerts by some astonishing feats. He has such facility that he often seems glib. And his self-control is impressive.

His recent concerts have certainly been out of the ordinary. The Teatro Maipo is centenary this year and its owner, Lino Patalano (long-time manager of Julio Bocca), to celebrate decided to do something outside that theatre's tradition: concerts of classical music. As is well-known, the Maipo's trajectory has been identified with that particular genre, the variety show ("revista"). Renovated in recent years, the theatre certainly looks good with its plush seats and tasteful decoration. Patalano's gamble was big and strange: he asked Lavandera to do four identical recitals on Mondays with purely Argentine programmes. The pianist has an important following, but it certainly isn't easy to attract our Europeanized concert audiences to a session of our music. Particularly at steep prices ($ 150 the best stalls ).

Lavandera dedicated the First Part to our great composers of the first 70 years of the twentieth century, and the Second to contemporaries. I felt he gave too much space to Alberto Ginastera; he was certainly our greatest composer, but he was well represented by his First Sonata; the other two works of his would have been profitably replaced by works from such composers as Guastavino, Gianneo and García Morillo. Also, there was a marked emphasis on motoric, rhythmic scores, which allowed Lavandera to show off his privileged fingers but made for monotony and a sense of overkill. And it didn't help that the piano was rather metallic and to boot it was amplified.

He didn't start well: Julián Aguirre's "Huella" and "Gato" lacked charm and singing quality. Alberto Williams's "Milonga del volatinero" fared better, and the Ginastera scores were mostly excellent, though I missed in the Sonata the required mystery in the second movement and an ecstatic quality in the slow one.

With the contemporaries the problem was rather in the quality of the music; they all seemed grandsons of Ginastera and technical hurdles seemed to be there just for the sake of them. This was clearly apparent in Fabián Panisello's "Double etude No.6" and in Esteban Benzecry's "Toccata Newen". Apart from the poor humor of the titles, Gabriel Senanes' "Triciclo" had some appealing moments. Osvaldo Golijov's "Levante" sounded very crossover. Three encores: I enjoyed a lot a tango by Eduardo Arolas, but a Piazzolla piece was also good; the ample melodic arch of Carlos Gardel's "Mi Buenos Aires querido" was less congenial for the player, always dazzling in the difficult bits of the Second Part.

I missed Carlos Vieu's first concert with the Colón Orchestra, for it was Holy Week and I wasn't here. I caught up with the conductor in his second programme, which had no soloist; the venue was the Auditorio de Belgrano, whose good acoustics are a balm. As announced the programme was absurdly short; belatedly they added another work to have a reasonable playing time. I was told that the popular slant was due to its original character as a free concert, but someone decided otherwise, and tickets weren't cheap.

There are other bad news, but I will stress first the good ones: Vieu, now 42, is our best conductor, and is getting very interesting results from the Colón Orchestra. The playing and conducting were throughout professional, in style and satisfying. However, there are observations to be made otherwise:

a) To those who read attentively it must have come as a shock that the orchestral roster adds to the permanent members no less than 19 players under contract. Horacio Sanguinetti, the Colón's Director, had said that there could be no operatic season because the Orchestra was incomplete; but it stands to reason that if he can contract players to do concerts, he can do the same with opera. So his rationale to cancel the season doesn't hold up. On the other hand, Mauricio Macri said in the February press conference that there would no longer be people under contract: wrong again.

b) The Colón has had for many decades staff writers on music. Concerts have had programme notes by either Pola Suárez Urtubey or Julio Palacio . But now apparently they are no longer there, for the notes were written (very well) by that talented Renaissance man, Alberto Bellucci. I certainly don't object his presence as such, but I do feel that staff writers are needed and the Colón had very good ones.

c) Finally, a programme with three well-known Overtures (from operas that haven't been staged since long ago, nor will they be in the next three years), a film-derived ballet suite and a tuneful Bizet suite, is of course fun to hear but lightweight. Overtures: Wagner's "The Mastersingers", Weber's "Der Freischuetz" and Verdi's "La Forza del Destino". Then, Nino Rota's Suite from "La Strada" and finally Bizet's Second Suite from "L'Arlésienne".

For Buenos Aires Herald

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