sábado, septiembre 19, 2009

Austrian guests and local orchestras enliven season

The concert season has recently been quite interesting. Distinguished Austrian visitors gave us great classics in high style and our two main orchestras proceeded with their seasons at an appreciably high level.

The Mozarteum brought us in succession at the Coliseo two worthy outfits: the Vienna Piano Trio and the Camerata Salzburg. Violinist Wolfgang Redik and pianist Stefan Mendl were founder members of the first named in 1988 and are still there; their current cellist is Matthias Gredler, replacing Marcus Trefny since 2001. They have of course a sense of style that comes not only from the ambience in which they grew up but also of great teachers such as the Beaux Arts Trio. I was very much impressed by Gredler´s sound quality, always burnished but precise, with perfect intonation. The pianist is a first-rate technician who had moments of real virtuoso. I do have small misgivings about the violinist, to my mind a bit spiky and lacking in sensuousness for the Romantics, but he certainly plays well and is integrated with his partners.

The programme for the first subscription series started with Haydn´s most famous Trio, Nº 25, "Hungarian", in a clean, dynamic version. The second choice was inspired, Smetana´s sole Trio is a Romantic, expansive score of great emotional impact and difficulty and it was played with true conviction. Mendelssohn´s Second Trio, op.66, less often played than the marvelous First, is a redoubtable work nonetheless, and it was a proper homage in the year of the bicentenary of his birth to hear it in such an involved and well-wrought interpretation. There was a lovely encore, the Andante con moto from Schubert´s Second Trio. I couldn´t hear the second programme, which included a rarity, Anton Rubinstein´s Second Trio.

The Camerata Salzburg is the new name of an ensemble who left quite a mark here as the Academic Camerata of the Salzburg Mozarteum in three splendid visits with wise old Sandor Vegh in 1989, 1991 and 1993. They keep to the standards we appreciated then: they play orchestrally as if it were chamber music, each member listening intently to all others and being acutely aware of a group personality. And they are naturally picked players of different nationalities, more cosmopolitan than of yore. Their period with Roger Norrington has given them a leaner sound, almost vibratoless. Their current conductor is violinist Leonidas Kavakos, but he fell ill and was replaced by a very proficient artist, pianist Stefan Vladar, who proved a convincing leader.

I caught their second concert, centered –as the other- on Haydn and Mozart. It was a great pleasure to hear such smooth, clear and up-to-date versions of wonderful music, Classicism at its best. I strongly suspect that the Orchestra had rehearsed the main pieces with Kavakos and that Vladar took over as the conscientious professional he is, keeping to the general mold. Haydn´s Symphony Nº 83, "The Hen", starts in G minor with a great whiff of "Sturm und Drang", but soon evolves to major regions and is mostly bubbly and full of invention; "tempi" now tend to be a bit faster (especially the menuets) than in Vegh´s time, but everything coheres with a common intention; individually several are virtuosi, especially the oboist and the flutist.

Mozart´s Piano Concerto Nº 19 has always been a favorite of mine, so full of charm and fascinating ideas. Vladar proved to be a very fluent pianist, playing sometimes a bit too fast but with great command and taste. The mighty "Jupiter" symphony (Nº 41), with that miraculous counterpoint in the Finale, is tough Mozart to crack; it was mostly very good, but some lines were obscured in the multiple entries of the last movement. The sweet encore was the third movement of Mozart´s very early Cassation K.63 for strings (a melody with pizzicato accompaniment).

In a noble gesture, the Mozarteum gave a hand to Nuova Harmonia, harassed by cancellations due to the influenza crisis, and the Camerata Salzburg also played for them, now led by concertino Alexander Hohenthal from his playing post. After an almost exact repetition of Haydn´s Symphony Nº 83, he played very nicely Mozart´s Concerto Nº 5 for violin, "Turkish", with frequent and apposite cadenzas and enough character in that strange episode of the last movement that gives the piece its nickname. A very accurate and stylish version of Mozart´s marvelous Symphony Nº 36, "Linz", gave full pleasure.

Arturo Diemecke was at the helm at a B.A. Phil concert (at the Coliseo) where the excellent soloist was Ángel Frette in vibraphone playing two premieres: a l5-minute Vibraphone Concerto by the French composer Emmanuel Séjourné (1961) that seemed to me short on substance though it gave good chances of sparkle to the player, and an arrangement by Saúl Cosentino of his tango-tinged "Nuestra esperanza" (Nº 3 of his "Minisuite"), pleasant enough. "Catalonia" (6 minutes) is practically the only independent orchestral piece we have by Isaac Albéniz, so its very agreeable music was a homage to the centenary of his death. A splendid performance of that evergreen, Tchaikovsky´s Fifth Symphony, brought the concert to an end.

Finally, Pedro Calderón conducted in a state of grace Bruckner´s mighty Eighth with the National Symphony, proving again that in this repertoire they are locally unbeatable: the best leader and the best orchestra, with fantastic brass playing. This was at the Facultad de Derecho.

For Buenos Aires Herald