domingo, julio 06, 2008

Interesting programming from our orchestras

Yes, I know, there’s no Colón opera season. But its orchestras are active, and some concerts have proved worthwhile. I will give pride of place to the all-Richard Strauss Colón Orchestra night conducted by the 85-year-old Franz-Paul Decker. It was offered twice in successive days at the Auditorio de Belgrano and I heard the second one. One negative point: sparse audiences, which reflects badly on a public that should have realized that this was a session not to be missed. In fact it proved to be the only occasion so far that I would call worthy of the Colón’s international fame, even if it was outside its walls. The programme was mouth-watering: the gigantic “Domestic Symphony”, the Four Last Songs with Virginia Correa Dupuy and the Suite from “Der Rosenkavalier”. It was a homage to the beloved veteran maestro (who received plaques from the Orchestra and the theatre’s authorities) and showed him astonishingly fit in mind and body at an age where most have retired. And Strauss is his specialty: he revels in the gorgeous, enormous orchestration and knows how to clarify it and how to unify the vast expanses of rich music. Apart from a notorious trumpet glitch, the Symphony proceeded with coherence and vast impact, with the Orchestra responding well to the virtuosic demands. The singer was her sensitive, stylish self in those autumnal songs that seem a swan song of Postromanticism. And the “Rosenkavalier” music was simply bewitching, the maestro coddling lovely, “Gemuetlich” sounds out of an involved orchestra. The “Estable” gave other concerts conducted by their very able Principal Conductor Carlos Vieu. An all-Bruckner night was a tough assignment, especially for the brass. And it showed in the horn fluffs occurred during the very demanding Fourth Symphony (Romantic). Also, the Auditorio’s acoustics are very live and tend to exaggerate massive sounds. And Bruckner is often granitic. So, both in the Symphony and in the Te Deum, even if Vieu chose sane tempi and phrased well, one felt rather crushed; he should have toned down the fortissimi of both the Colón Choir (Salvatore Caputo) and the orchestra. The lady soloists were marginally better than the gentlemen but all except the mezzo were shouty : soprano Irene Burt, mezzo Mónica Sardi, tenor Arnaldo Quiroga and bass Ariel Cazes, especially poor. I found quite unnecessary the inclusion of Verdi’s Requiem Mass in the season for it was heard closing 2007’s activity. The work is admirable, of course, but there was no need for such immediate repetition. There were no less than five performances with two casts; although the first, all Argentine, was good (Patricia Gutiérrez, Cecilia Díaz, Carlos Duarte, Christian Peregrino) I preferred to avoid the ultra-resonant acoustics of the Cathedral and hear the second cast at the Auditorio: the tutti may have been too overpowering but otherwise I heard the music clearly. Vieu’s baton was both firm and sensitive, controlling the Orchestra and the Choir (Caputo) with undoubted talent; one rarely hears the Sanctus so well sung and played. The special pleasure of this performance was the admirable Italian soprano Maria Pia Piscitelli, fortunately a frequent visitor; although her lows are a bit weak, the middle voice and the high register are lovely and she sings with real line. Mezzo Alejandra Malvino also did good work; I admired her true intonation particularly singing at the unison octave with the soprano. Fernando Chalabe replaced the announced tenor Gustavo López Manzitti; I found him in poor voice and style. And the bass Homero Pérez Miranda sounded excentric and un-Verdian. The Buenos Aires Philharmonic is having a so-so season. Even Decker (at the Coliseo) couldn’t get as good a result as was hoped from Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9, though the final Adagio came close; but the orchestra seems dispirited. There was a pleasant surprise, however: the 18-year-old Chinese pianist Chun Wang proved a major find in Liszt’s Concerto No. 1, played with true virtuosity but also with sensitive tone in the cantabiles. His encore, “El puerto” from “Iberia” by Albéniz, was delightfully pointed. Even Arturo Diemecke, the Phil’s Principal Conductor, who generally has such rapport with this organism, didn’t get the results we heard in earlier seasons. After a perfectly absurd opening with Gomes’ Overture from “Il guarany”, we heard Mahler’s uneven and enormous Seventh Symphony. Diemecke couldn’t make light of the bad patches of first and last movements, though there was some enjoyment in the three middle movements (the two “Night Musics” and the shadowy Scherzo). The following concert had one strong point, a very able rendition of Ginastera’s late and very interesting “Popol Vuh”, a skillful blend of the avantgarde and the telluric. Pablo Saraví played nicely the rather light and short “Concert Fantasy on Russian themes” by Rimsky-Korsakov. But the concert closed with a harsh and uncontrolled Beethoven Seventh. Jean also conducted a concert with De Rogatis, Rimsky-Korsakov and Brahms. I could only attend the general rehearsal of Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto, where Peter Donohoe was his redoubtable self, a truly massive technique up to all difficulties. The Orchestra of the Teatro Argentino under Luis Gorelik offered an important concert. Antonio Formaro played magnificently and in true Gallic style Saint-Saens’ Concerto No.2, and Mahler’s wonderful “Das Lied von der Erde” was very correctly done by conductor and orchestra, with fine contributions from mezzo Alejandra Malvino and poor ones from tenor Carlos Bengolea. For Buenos Aires Herald

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