lunes, octubre 20, 2008

Great symphonic experiences

Nuova Harmonia ended its season with a marvelous symphonic experience at the Coliseo: the only concert of the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra Moscow under Vladimir Fedoseyev. It used to be called the Moscow Radio Symphony and it visited us under that name some years ago, led by the same conductor, who has been with it for 34 years and is now a spry 76-year-old. They brought us two standard Russian masterpieces: Rimsky-Korsakov´s "Scheherezade" and Tchaikovsky´s Fifth Symphony. Under normal circumstances I would attack the yuxtaposition of two such well-known scores and would call for something more innovative, but after hearing them I stand not only content but enthusiastic.

The orchestra has had great Russian conductors since its inception in 1930: Orlov, Golovanov, Gauk, Rozhdestvensky and for more than the last three decades, Fedoseyev. It was in 1993 that it took the current name. The fact that its 95 players have interpreted the chosen scores dozens of times under the same guidance certainly gives them an assurance that is reflected in the sovereign quality of phrasing they show. Fedoseyev isn´t a precisionist and this is felt in minuscule misadjustments that however don´t affect the paramount interpretations, of an authenticity in both composers that made for a memorable occasion.

The players are individually virtuosi and have both that unmistakable Russian expressivity and great discipline; it is uncanny to hear the massed violins to play with exactly the same bowing and attack. In "Scheherezade" both the concertino, Mikhail Shestakov, and the first cellist, Vladimir Nikonov, were wonderfully sweet and accurate. The myriad shadows of the score were ideally phrased, with a subtlety and beauty that made for ecstatic hearing. And Tchaikovsky´s Fifth, was simply ideal in tempi, timbres, tensions and releases, becoming a profoundly moving experience, as well as thrillingly virtuosic. A curious bit of data: both works were written in 1888.

Encores: both by Tchaikovsky: the "Panorama" from "Sleeping Beauty", too slow for comfort in Fedoseyev´s view, and the "Spanish Dance" from "The Nutcracker", on the contrary overfast but certainly exciting.

An impromptu visit was that of the Brazilian National Symphony Orchestra, 77-strong, sited in Rio de Janeiro, born in 1961 and making its local debut at the Avenida with the leadership of Ligia Amadio, well-known here for her concerts with the Buenos Aires Philharmonic. It was a pleasant surprise and it showed a marked advance in Rio´s symphonic life, which used to be quite poor decades ago . It isn´t on a par with the splendid Sao Paulo Symphony under Neschling, perhaps the best Latin-American orchestra nowadays, but the Rio players are quite good, and under the energetic and knowledgeable conducting of Amadio showed themselves very listenable.

I was sorry about the substitution of the very interesting early Ginastera work , Suite from the ballet "Ollantay", by the overdone dances from his "Estancia". And although I certainly enjoy Villa-Lobos´ "Bachianas Brasileiras No. 7", I would have preferred the originally announced Chôros No. 7, less played and quite advanced in idiom. But both were played with stamina and accuracy, except for some difficult writing in the final Fugue from the "Bachianas". I also liked Camargo Guarnieri´s "Three orchestral dances".

I was much impressed by the Brazilian pianist Linda Bustani, whom I hadn´t heard before, in a talented traversal of the scintillating Ravel Concerto, with fine style and exactitude. She was correctly accompanied. It was probably a local debut.

The Freiburg Young Philharmonic made its second visit to BA under its Chief Conductor, Andreas Winnen, at a Midday Concert of the Mozarteum at the Ópera. The disciplined orchestra showed again that it is well steeped in the best German tradition, although one couldn´t call Winnen imaginative, but I was really stunned by the wonderful playing of Annette von Hehn (violin) and Stefan Heinenmeyer (cello) in Brahms´ Double Concerto, strong, accurate and stylish. They also did themselves proud in the Handel/Halvorsen Passacaglia, adapted from the original for violin and viola.

The B.A.Philharmonic has offered some worthwhile concerts in recent weeks. Its Chief Conductor, Arturo Diemecke, showed again his mettle in the sprawling but fascinating programmatic symphony by Tchaikovsky, "Manfred", on Lord Byron´s ultra-Romantic account of an antihero, and the orchestra responded well to the very hard challenge. Before the interval we heard an accurate though a bit mechanical account of Schumann´s Piano Concerto by Evgeny Mikhailov, somewhat lacking in the poetry that Nelson Freire had offered us earlier this season.

Although I only heard the general rehearsal, I was very favourably impressed by the perfervid traversal of Rachmaninov´s intense First Symphony under Roslen Milanov. There was also a correct version of Alberto Williams´ First Concert Overture, and an agreeable one of Poulenc´s Piano Concerto, with very professional but rather heavy playing from Akiko Ebi.

The following concert was really important. Günther Neuhold directed with firm hand a very tough programme, eliciting good playing from the Phil, not quite perfect but always respectable. The pleasant Violin Concerto by Alicia Terzian, redolent of Armenian folklore, was splendidly played by Rafael Gintoli. Then came a very characteristic score by Olivier Messiaen, perhaps a premiere: "Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum", five fragments for winds that combine mysticism with quite modern procedures. And finally, Barshai´s string orchestra arrangement of the autobiographic Quartet No.8 by Shostakovich, which sounds well in its new attire as Chamber Symphony op. 110a. It was a co-production with the Fundación Encuentros Internacionales de Música Contemporánea.

For Buenos Aires Herald

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