domingo, julio 13, 2008

The National Symphony's valuable season

On May 10 I referred to the National Symphony's current season in hopeful terms. Since then, their plans have taken place with some internal problems. The worst was on June 27, when the malfunction of a lift at the annex of the Cervantes Theatre made it impossible to transport the heavy instruments to the Facultad de Derecho and forced the adjournment of the concert to July 11 (their habitual rehearsal room is at the 11th. level of the mentioned Annex). But the concerts at the Facultad have taken place according to the year's programming and some sessions have been very satisfactory, confirming that the NS is our best orchestra currently, even if it has to perform in bad acoustics. On May 16 the Orchestra was led by Guillermo Scarabino and the occasion had three reasons to make it worthwhile: the inclusion of the rarely heard and interesting Kodály Concerto for orchestra, the presence of one of our best pianists, Alejandro Panizza, as soloist in Brahms' massive Second Concerto, and the premiere of Eva Lopszyc's "Ave Maria". I will start with the latter; the score of the Argentine composer proved to be much more than the habitual short piece with that style. Instead, its 15-minute course is an intense, dramatic prayer to Our Lady of Czestochowa . With the convincing presence of soprano Susana Caligaris and the Coro Polifónico Nacional, the work made a strong statement. Kodály's 23-minute Concerto makes one think of Bartók's masterpiece of the same title, but the music, though very pleasant and well wrought, inhabits a lower level of invention; it was quite well expressed by conductor and orchestra.; it's worth stating that Kodály's score is earlier (1939-40) than Bartók's ( 1942-3, revised 1945). Panizza has the sort of big sound and security of attack needed by Brahms' two Concerti; he has also the mental control to solve the intricate irregular rhythms. On this occasion I found him not quite as expressive as he can be; perhaps he was influenced by a too thick orchestral accompaniment and a phrasing that was too square. But make no mistake, he is a major pianist. Italian conductor Nino Lepore made his debut on June 6. He was born near Bari and has long been the leader of the Symphony of Bari Province. His career as a guest conductor isn't distinguished, those mentioned in his biography are of the second and third rank.. One can surmise that current conditions at our NS don't allow to pay adequate fees for "name conductors"; this is something to change in 2009 and it depends both on the amelioration of the low budget voted by Congress and of the distribution that José Nun sees fit to make of the Culture Secretariat's monies. Lepore's programme wasn't interesting; one of the less important Rossini overtures, that of "Tancredi"; Beethoven's Concerto No. 3 with Paula Peluso as the pianist; and Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4, "Italian". In fact Peluso was the best thing; very clean, more dramatic and with a bigger sound than what I heard from her in previous occasions, she gave us authentic Beethoven. After a rather pale Rossini, Lepore accompanied well the Beethoven and gave an orthodox reading of Mendelssohn; he was correct and so was the orchestra, but inspiration was elsewhere. The following concert on June 20 was brilliant. Not only did Pedro Calderón give a splendid premiere performance of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 12 but Israeli pianist Boris Giltburg gave a stunning performance of Prokofiev's Concerto No. 3. Up to the last minute the concert was in jeopardy; a prolonged blackout didn't allow a general rehearsal . But the lights went on just in time, and the concert was a great success. Symphony No. 12, op.112 (1961) isn't one of Shostakovich's best for it depends too much on the redundant exploitation of an initial motto, but of course there's plenty of imagination in the 41-minute score, a single movement in four sections reflecting "The Year 1911", the advance signs of the 1917 revolution. I enjoyed it a lot in a very committed interpretation; now there's only No. 3 left to be premiered, thanks to Calderón's efforts, often stumped by the Culture Secretariat. Giltburg had offered last year a notable recital, so I wasn't surprised at the evidence of transcendental virtuoso means in Prokofiev's splendid music, but I admired deeply the musicality of his phrasing, the beauty of his touch, his charisma and positive personnality. He was very well abetted by Calderón and an orchestra on its toes. His encore was Rachmaninov's famous Prelude op. 3 No.2. The following isn't a proper review, for I could only attend the general rehearsal, but I have reliable accounts that the concert (on July 4) was met with wild applause. David Handel, a young American conductor who is doing fine work in Bolivia and Cuyo, led an electrifying rehearsal of splendid USA music with the gestures, energy and acumen of an early Bernstein. I missed Barber' Overture to "The School for Scandal", but I had splendid impressions of Bernstein's Dances from "West Side Story" and an ample 45-minute suite from Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess", with Soledad de la Rosa (soprano), Alejandro Meerapfel (baritone) and the Coro Polifónico Nacional. I enjoyed it hugely, for both orchestra and chorus entered spiritedly into the heart of the music, and Handel obviously relishes it

For Buenos Aires Herald