Due to illness and other factors I unfortunately missed the initial installments of the respective seasons of both institutions. Thus in Festivales I couldn't hear that marvelous chamber choir, the Estudio Coral de Buenos Aires under Carlos López Puccio, in a very commendable and difficult programme that accorded fully with the year's Festival theme, "Bach and the Twentieth Century": Debussy, Ginastera, Schoenberg, Penderecki, Poulenc, Ligeti and a Bach motet. Nor could I attend a less interesting concert by the Quinteto Filarmónico de Buenos Aires (the players are excellent but I found their programme rather light). As to the
Now to what I could hear. The third Festivales concert let us meet the Verdehr Trio (debut) at the Avenida, and I was deeply impressed. The players are: Walter Verdehr (violin, Yugoslav), his wife Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr (clarinet, apparently USA-born) and the much younger Argentinian pianist Elsa Roederer , the only one that isn't a founder of this chamber group with more than thirty years of activity. They have commissioned an astonishing 200 scores from composers all over the world , singularly expanding a not overlarge repertoire for this very attractive combination.
Both the smooth and musical violinist and the precise and sensitive pianist are very likable but for me the real star is the lady clarinettist, of stunning technical quality and great power of expression, as well as absolute concentration. The hand programme should have stated that all works except Bartók's "Contrasts" were premieres here. At least two are commissions by the Verdehr: the charming and imaginative Trio written by Gian Carlo Menotti at the ripe age of 85 and the
The fourth concert had two attractions: the "rentrée" of the beloved conductor Franz Paul Decker, now 85!, at the helm of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic; and the predictably brilliant presence of pianist Horacio Lavandera playing Gershwin's Concerto in F major. There was a downside: the same concert had been offered in the Phil's subscription series the day before; thus a friend who had both series (Festivales and the Phil) attended twice this programme.
Forty years have gone by since Decker made his very special debut here premiering Bruckner's Symphony No. 8 . He has been responsible for dozens of memorable nights since then, both in concert and opera, combining technical acumen with stylistic knowledge and that difficult-to-define quality called charisma. We owe him wonderful programmes, such as one that combined three visions of Pelleas and Melisande (Schoenberg, Fauré and Sibelius), and the Phil has always respected him. How did he fare in this latest visit after several years of absence? He looks admirably spry and fit , his gestures are clear and decisive, he is still a connoisseur of many different musical ways. But...did the Phil lack enough rehearsal or is it going through a period of internal turmoil? For the fact is that I heard quite too many slips of intonation and attack throughout the evening.
I wasn't happy with his choice of the Edward Elgar arrangement of Johann Sebastian Bach's Fantasy and Fugue in C minor; it sounds inflated and quite un-Bachian and it was poorly played. Hindemith's "Mathis der Maler" Symphony is his masterpiece taken from the homonymous opera on Matthias Gruenewald, the great Renaissance expressionist painter; this is powerful and tightly constructed music. Decker understands it well but the failings of the orchestra precluded the achievement of a fully rounded interpretation.
Ginastera's "Overture for the Creole Faust" had been played recently under Diemecke and fared better. Gerswin's lovely Concerto was beautifully swinged by Lavandera, with dazzling technique; he does lack however a deeper, stronger sound and I remembered Votapek's model performances. The Phil was collaborative but the trumpet had an off night.
I leave the
Para el Buenos Aires Herald
Para el Buenos Aires Herald