domingo, noviembre 23, 2008

The richness of the choral-symphonic repertoire

In recent weeks the music lover has had occasion to appreciate a good deal of the best of the beautiful choral-symphonic repertoire , albeit in different levels of interpretation. Hereby a synthesis of events.

Pride of place goes to the end-of-season concert of Festivales Musicales at the Auditorio de Belgrano, where the much-loved veteran maestro Michel Corboz showed yet again his acumen as a specialist of this texture. The programme combined two scores of different composers: Francis Poulenc´s "Gloria" and Puccini´s 50-minute "Messa di Gloria". The former lasts about 25´, dates from 1959 and is typical of the author in its beauty of melody and harmony and its contrast between sublimated numbers and others of jubilant nature and syncopated rhythm, which accords with the celebratory character of the Gloria. The Messa on the other hand is an early work (1880) by the future master of opera and responds to the family tradition of sacred music at his home town, Lucca. It shows the sureness of hand of the composer, even in elaborate counterpoint, although what we hear is the 1893 revision, surely more polished than the original. As was to be expected, there´s ample melody and warmness in this music, not transcendent but surely very pleasant to hear.

The Colón Orchestra didn´t sound completely assured in some moments of the Poulenc but seemed good enough in Puccini. The Colón Choir under Salvatore Caputo was strong and brilliant though not quite subtle enough in slow hushed passages. Soledad de la Rosa was admirably musical and crystal-clear in Poulenc, and in Puccini baritone Víctor Torres sung with his wonted refinement and tenor Enrique Folger forced his fine timbre with verismo excesses.

Johann Sebastian Bach´s Mass in G minor is the most monumental work of the repertoire and one of the most difficult, only surpassed by Beethoven´s shorter but mighty "Missa Solemnis". In the last three decades Bach has gone though a historicist revolution and we no longer accept versions of admirable beauty and accomplishment but with a Romantic outlook such as Von Karajan´s. On the other hand I feel that interpretations with modern instruments but with Baroque "manners" such as Karl Richter and early Helmut Rilling are still valid and moving. Late Rilling, Harnoncourt, Gardiner and others give us swift tempi, historical instruments and very transparent textures. It´s a streamlined Bach, to my mind less communicative but attractive in its exactness and timbres, but it demands a very high grade of professionalism.

This marvellous Catholic Mass produced by a Lutheran , incredibly unitary although it is a patchwork of new music and recycled material from earlier cantatas, is always astonishing in its unbounded imagination and superlative contrapuntal technique. It´s a tall order to offer it, but La Bella Música resolved to present it. The institution has presented valuable choral-symphonic works in recent years, generally with good results. This time they were mixed. Andrés Gerszenzon conducted some time ago a "St. Mathew Passion" that followed historicist principles but was often devitalized, and this happened again with the Mass. His tempi were generally well-chosen, he used trumpets and horn on the mold of the Baroque period, he innovated by assigning to soloists (on the basis of sparse accompaniment) fragments generally done chorally, but there was little tension and expression in the phrasing. When one isn´t moved by the "Crucifixus", something is wrong.

Care had been taken to try to assemble good players and singers but results weren´t quite what was expected. I do single out the notable first trumpet Valentin Garvie, Argentine though living in Europe, for his precision and intonation, but the horn player, imported from Brazil, was lamentabl The Baroque Ensemble "de la Bella Música", 26-strong, had well-known players (Marchesini, R. Rutkauskas, G. Massun, Barile, F. Ciancio) but the total result wasn´t as satisfactory as the work demands; I was surprised by considerable lapses of intonation and some playing didn´t have the right timbre (Barile). The Coral del Siglo XXI (40 singers) conducted by Guillermo Dorá acquitted themselves rather well, though they were the victims of inappropriate phrasing.

It was audacious to assign the contralto parts to a countertenor, something that both Harnoncourt and Leonhardt have done in the casting of cantatas, so I suppose there´s some basis for it. The very young Damián Ramírez has a beautiful timbre and he did an expressive "Agnus Dei" but I found him hesitant in "Qui sedes". Víctor Torres was admirable in "Et in spiritum sanctum" and less so in "Quoniam", perhaps upset by the horn player. I found Ricardo González Dorrego charmless though accurate in "Benedictus". The participation of sopranos Silvina Sadoly and Marisú Pavón was correct and that of Lídice Robinson as second soprano, unnecessary. The venue was the Coliseo.

About 35 years ago Purcell´s semiopera "Dioclesian" had a good premiere, I believe under Raymond Leppard. Its revival by the Sociedad Händel led by Sergio Siminovich was warranted by the quality of the piece but unfortunately was very poor due to the quite mediocre orchestral ensemble (intonation was awful) and the amateurish though enthusiastic chorus. Siminovich´s technique was as always confusing in its ample but imprecise gestures, though I grant him the merit of bringing to us interesting and neglected pieces. There was good work from sopranos Silvina Guatelli and Natalia Salardino and countertenor Damián Ramírez, less good by tenor Mario Martínez and bass Francisco Bastitta.

For Buenos Aires Herald

1 comentario:

Anónimo dijo...

Hello, I want it to correct some wrong information,,I wasn't sing Dioclesian with Sergio Siminovich..maybe the program said my name by error.Thank you, best whishes for you.
Natalia Salardino, soprano.