domingo, agosto 16, 2009

From Haydn to the avantgarde

Recent weeks have brought a wealth of new music, if you take that to mean "new" from any period. Not all were premieres, of course, but enough to make life interesting.

As you know, this is the year in which we commemorate the bicentenary of Franz Joseph Haydn´s death, and it´s a good thing that he´s being copiously remembered, for only Mozart can give us so much serenity and poise. There was the wonderful debut of the Haydn Trio Eisenstadt, which takes its name from one of the Esterházy palaces in which Haydn labored for three decades. They offered at the Gran Rex, for the Midday Concerts, two mature Trios, Nos. 29 and 27, and as an encore the 2nd. Movement from Nº 28, and I can´t conceive better playing from the pianist, always incredibly polished and nevertheless expressive. The string players were very good too, but they weren´t favored by the Gran Rex´s acoustics, which tend to eat up string sound. The novelty in this case was Lalo Schifrin´s "Elegy and Meditation", an agreeable surprise in which this artist, long associated with films, TV and symphonic jazz, proves himself a convincing creator of chamber music quoting Haydn´s Sonata Nº4 within a tonal texture of considerable refinement and beauty. The players: Harald Kosik, piano; Verena Stourzh, violin; Hannes Gradwohl, cello.

The Fundación de Música de Cámara has long accustomed us, through the wise Artistic Direction of Guillermo Opitz, to concerts programmed with talent, which means both renovated and attractive. "Solamente Haydn ´09", at the Museo de Arte Decorativo, was an almost complete success with three instrumental scores alternating with eleven vocal pieces in three languages, all of them very rarely played or presented as a premiere. Textures changed constantly. The Quartet in G for flute and strings, Hob II G/4, started proceedings. It was followed by four of the admirable late songs on poems by Anne Hunter, and by three duets from the enormous number of Scottish songs arranged by Haydn for voice (or voices) and piano trio, although they were sung in German .

The Second Part started with a very enticing work, dubious according to Grove (but no matter, it sounds so nice): "The Echo", "to be executed in two different spaces for two ensembles of three strings each"; the instrumental groups overlapped each other with perfect intonation and gave sheer pleasure. Two Duets and two Canzonettas on poems by Carlo Francesco Badini showed Haydn´s affinity with the Italian style, though I was sorry that an arbitrary staging by Betty Gambartes robbed them of their eighteenth-century charm. Finally, "Notturno in C major", Nº 1 of a series of eight written for London and originally for "lira organizzata", a now forgotten instrument replaced by flute and oboe; the orchestration also includes horns and strings. This is a lovely work from Late Classicism and it was very neatly played by the whole ensemble, both Fabio Mazzitelli (flute) and Marcelo Baus (oboe) being particularly ingratiating. The very musical young singers were María del Rocío Giordano (soprano) and Carlos Natale (tenor), well-accompanied by Miriam Bircher. All five string players and two hornists were first-rate.

Soprano Sylvie Robert has done wonderful work on behalf of the avant-garde in recent years, especially in scores by György Kurtág. Now she gave us admirable performances of two very different pieces at the Alianza Francesa. She started with "Lonh" by Kaija Saariaho, in fact derived from her opera "L´amour de loin", about the love of a Crusader and a Maghreb girl; if the opera is overlong and too morose for its material, "Lonh", for soprano and electroacoustic sounds, is just the right length for its hypnotic, sinuous music; barely lighted in the dark, Robert sang with involved and refined phrasing. I didn´t enjoy "Du noir des signes", an instrumental piece by the Argentine Santiago Díez-Fischer; harsh aggressive catalog of violent gestures without direction.

But "Voi(rex)" (2003) by Philippe Leroux (1959), a 25-minute premiere, was the main point of the night and worth knowing. An introduction and five movements deal with the same set of words; the musical material is contrasted with an electronic processing in real time. The interaction of the soprano and the instrumental sextet is quite complex; although not every fragment is of sustained interest, a good deal convinces and impresses. The sextet under José Amato played very well and Sylvie Robert gave a virtuoso performance; only the electronic realization wasn´t quite right .

TACEC is the new Center for Experimentation and Creation of the Teatro Argentino (La Plata) and its creator, Martín Bauer, is transporting to another city the principles he applied at the Colón´s CETC. The venue is more comfortable than the Colón´s , bigger and with no interfering columns, and with a plainer, less convoluted stage. Bauer had a success at the CETC with John King´s "La Belle Captive" and it was only logical that he should ask the composer for a premiere at the TACEC. This was "Galileo Galilei", an adaptation of Bertolt Brecht´s play. Specifically called "experimental opera" for two actresses, choir, string quartet and electronic sounds, it was partially successful. Too much talk, pointless casting of actresses instead of actors, relentlessly unpleasant string music, but beautiful choral fragments although in a style two centuries earlier than Galileo, and fine visual design of cosmic implications. An excellent feminine chorus (6 voices), imaginative work from Maguna/Bainbridge in the visuals.

For Buenos Aires Herald