martes, septiembre 02, 2008

Varied symphonic activity in BA

I will start with an interesting visit, that of the Liège Philharmonic under Pascal Rophé(debut) and featuring the first appearance in BA of the great USA mezzosoprano Susan Graham. Two different concerts for the Mozarteum at the Coliseo with French-Belgian programming. Naturally enough, being born in Belgian Liège, César Franck was featured in both nights: in the first, his impressive symphonic poem "Le chasseur maudit" ("The damned hunter"); in the second, his great Symphony. Many forgot that the Liège Philharmonic has already been here, and that it played the Franck Symphony; it was in 1998 and it was led by their then Principal Conductor, Pierre Bartholomée. In both concerts the audience heard "Nuits d´été", the introspective, refined song cycle written by Berlioz on lovely poems by Téophile Gautier, such as "Le spectre de la rose". Although written for voice and piano around 1840, it was orchestrated in 1856 and became thus the first song cycle with orchestra. The first concert also included Debussy´s "La Mer" and the second, the "Roman Carnival" by Berlioz. I could only hear the second .

Rophé is a sanguine but accurate conductor, capable of giving plenty of dynamism to that fantastic overture "Roman Carnival" and also to build a convincing whole in the Franck Symphony, quite tricky in some aspects due to its heavy texture. The Orchestra seemed to be vastly improved since 1998, with fine intonation, an attractive and intensive collective sound and a good deal of discipline. But the gem of the evening was "Nuits d´été", accompanied with taste, and sung with superb style and beautiful voice by the admirable Susan Graham, a major artist , the outstanding vocal visitor of the year (as was Hampson last season). I was told she had bronchitis, but it didn´t show, a token of her fine technique.

Arturo Diemecke is a strange conductor: he is a thorough professional with a gift for integration of vast aural canvases, he has a fantastic memory, he is undoubtedly concentrated and communicative, and the B.A. Phil likes him; but the moment he turns to the public he becomes a clown with glam gestures; it almost seems a double personality. I appreciated his art recently in a general rehearsal and a concert. The first started with a 20-minute discussion about working conditions, a sign that all is not well at the Phil. But once the music started, I heard a committed conductor and orchestra. In particular, the virtuosic and extended symphonic poem by R. Strauss, "A hero´s life"; I was really impressed by the power and accuracy of the playing, including fine solos by Pablo Saraví, the concertino. That programme also included "Three songs" by Osvaldo Golijov, an Argentine having a big success in USA; they were very well sung and interpreted by Virginia Correa Dupuy. And also one of the best works of Ginastera, the "Variaciones concertantes", cleanly played.

The following Diemecke concert was also very good. Russian pianist Evgeny Mikhailov, in his second visit, played with fine mechanism the Schumann Concerto; the lack of greater tone quality was, I think, the fault of a rather metallic piano. Tchaikovsky´s "Manfred Symphony" is a controversial long score which I personally admire a lot. It is based on the ultra-Romantic work by Byron and the antihero goes through many vicissitudes admirably reflected in the texture and organization of the music. Diemecke´s conducting was taut and dramatic , as well as colourful , and the orchestra responded quite well.

The National Symphony has also given us some valuable experiences. I could only hear part of the general rehearsal of a concert conducted by Pedro Calderón. I missed the Dvorák Overture "In Nature´s realm" and most of R. Strauss´"Death and transfiguration", though I heard its last minutes and I liked the interpretation. The Wagner Prelude to the Third Act of "Lohengrin" was forthright and brilliant. And the Khachaturian Violin Concerto had a very able interpretation by concertino Luis Roggero, well accompanied by the Orchestra.

The audacious program imagined by conductor Luis Gorelik was a stimulating experience. The First Part was given over to Luciano Berio, with the premiere of his "Rendering" and the revival of his "Folksongs". "Rendering" is a strange and not quite convincing score, for it tries to complete the Schubert Tenth Symphony with Berio´s clouds of indeterminate sound and it doesn´t jell; also, the rescued Schubert is pleasant enough but very far from the Eighth and Ninth Symphonies. On the other hand, the "Folksongs" are very expressive and resourceful reworkings of folksongs from many parts of the world. I though Vera Cirkovic´s performance too uneven vocally and full of theatrical gestures. Gorelik handled both scores very well. The second Part allowed us to hear Prokofiev´s cantata "Alexander Nevsky", a masterpiece of tremendous power and imagination. Alejandra Malvino sang her Lament with intensity and the National Polyphonic Choir was outstanding, producing massive and well-tuned sound. The Orchestra responded with great punch and professionalism to Gorelik´s fine conducting.

Carlos Vieu also got good results in an interesting programme. After a correct version of Wagner´s Prelude and Love-Death from "Tristan and Isolde", we heard a valuable revival, our Luis Gianneo´s Piano Concerto, a score of considerable elaboration and very pleasant to hear, very well played by Fernando Viani. Finally, the charming and rarely heard Symphony No. 5 by Dvorák in an idiomatic and well-wrought interpretation.

For Buenos Aires Herald