sábado, agosto 15, 2009

AN ORCHESTRAL MISCELLANY

One of the good points of the current season is that there has been interesting work from our orchestras. This is a panorama of recent weeks of the National Symphony (Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional) and of a concert by the Camerata Bariloche.

I lament the mediocre venue of the Bolsa de Comercio, but that´s that. I was surprised by the quality of conductor José María Sciutto, making his debut. He´s Argentine though he lives in Italy. He was very accurate and stylistic in an attractive programme with Mozart (his Second Horn Concerto, quite well played by Gastón Frosio) sandwiched between a Rossini overture (to "La scala di seta") and his magnificent Stabat Mater, an intense, dramatic and well-wrought one-hour score. With beautiful singing from the Coro Polifónico Nacional prepared by Roberto Luvini, three of the soloists were first-rate: Alejandra Malvino (mezzosoprano), Carlos Ullán (tenor) and Lucas Debevec Mayer (bass); only Susana Caligaris (soprano) was off-style, singing "verismo" instead of Rossini.

Probably Mahler´s Ninth is the greatest challenge the NS has had so far in this season, but the wise conducting of Pedro Calderón brought the project to an admirable result at the Facultad de Derecho. It´s the third time I appreciate him in this marvelous score, and he has the measure of it in tempi and phrasing; the orchestra was pliant and concentrated.

Back at the Bolsa, a pleasant French programme conducted by Calderón started with D´Indy´s Symphony on a mountain tune, for piano and orchestra, a lovely creation based on an Auvergne folk tune, endlessly varied in the three movements; it has long been absent (about two decades ago it was played by Gerardo Gandini) so I was a happy to meet it. It came out well, but no more, because Silvia Dabul´s piano sounded very backward; maybe the effect of the acoustics, but probably also a rather weak pulse from the clean pianist and a too sonorous orchestra. Saint-Saëns´ fine Third Concerto for violin came out quite better, with Luis Roggero in very good form and a professional accompaniment. A correct but hardly electric performance of Dukas´ "The Sorcerer´s Apprentice" rounded out the evening.

An all-Liszt programme at the Bolsa was conducted by Roberto Luvini, who also prepared the Coro Polifónico Nacional, and featured the premiere of the one-hour Missa Solemnis written for the inauguration of the Gran Basilica (modern-times Esztergom). Dated 1855, revised 1857-8, it is a mature work of impressive breadth, Romantic but very much in the sacred tradition, with admirable polyphonic textures. It will stand as one of the most important premieres of the year. Luvini showed fine command of his forces and he had an excellent group of soloists: Soledad de la Rosa (soprano), María Luján Mirabelli (mezzosoprano), Ricardo González Dorrego (tenor) and Luis Gaeta (baritone). In the initial Part, a conscientious interpretation of "Les Préludes" and an unfortunate one of the First Piano Concerto with a Viviana Lazzarin out of her depth.

Mexican conductor Enrique Barrios was at the helm in a mostly Russian concert at the Bolsa. The premiere of Mexican composer H. Hernández-Medrano´s "Homenaje a Copland" (symphonic fugue in one movement) passed without arousing much interest; it seemed to me rather anodine and poorly structured. The very difficult and long "Symphony concertante" for cello and orchestra by Prokófiev, a late score of intermittent grandeur, was played by a proficient José Alberto Araujo. Mussorgsky-Ravel´s "Pictures at an Exhibition" was offered with some moments of real impact, the "Great Gate of Kiev" appropriately majestic. I was told that Barrios wasn´t paid his fee nor his stay in BA…Can we expect foreign conductors to visit us if they are treated thus? Let´s hope that the new Director of Arts, José María Castiñeira de Dios, will put things right.

Back at the Facultad de Derecho, there was a praiseworthy concert under Andrés Spiller, the NS´ Assistant Conductor. The charming early "Spring" ("Printemps") by Debussy, and that towering masterpiece, Bartók´s Concerto for orchestra, were done with fine musicianship although with not quite enough virtuosity. But the special interest of the session was the premiere of Luis Mucillo´s "Liebeslieder" ("Love songs") on texts by Rilke, Heine, Hoffmannsthal and Novalis, luckily printed in the hand programme with their translations. It demonstrated yet again that Mucillo is a very special Argentine composer, of encompassing, deep European culture, a true humanist as well as a sensitive musician. The beautiful, transparent orchestration was the perfect foil for the attractive melodic word-setting. Although Víctor Torres has been in better voice in other occasions, there´s no gainsaying his intelligence and expression.

The Camerata Bariloche offered a concert at the Great Hall of the Hotel Panamericano, which has good acoustics and is quite pleasant. Due to the illness of Fernando Hasaj, José Bondar led it with real musicianship and command. The playing in J.S.Bach´s Concerto for two violins was hand-in-glove from Bondar and Elías Gurevich, with the ensemble not quite in tune. Mozart´s severe Adagio and fugue was well-interpreted but with some lapses. The Second Part, however, found the ensemble in top form, both in Suk´s "Meditation on the chorale St. Wenceslas" and in Dvorák´s Serenade op. 22: not only were they very professional but they phrased with taste and charm. The fleet encore was Mozart´s second movement from Divertimento K. 137. It was one of four concerts that benefit the Fundación Teatro Colón, certainly in need of help nowadays.
For Buenos Aires Herald