sábado, septiembre 19, 2009

Fine interpretations from the Philharmonic

The Buenos Aires Philharmonic was conducted in four concerts by its current Principal Conductor, Arturo Diemecke, who again showed his mettle and command. The first one I am reviewing was quite difficult and it included the world premiere of "Auris Concertum" for cello and orchestra, written by the Argentine composer Alejandro Civilotti Carvalho (1959) and dedicated to Queen Sophia of Spain, who facilitated a cochlear implant on the composer, thus avoiding his deafness. It is a big, 38-minute score; as I had the score in my hands and wrote the programme notes, let me quote myself: "it has a fluid language of clear tonal reminiscences, based on intervallic work and on brief rhythmic-melodic motifs. It shows conscientious artisanship and a moderate idiom without avant-garde ambitions". On hearing it I felt it was too long for its material and at times a bit arid, though it had the benefit of excellent playing by Eduardo Vassallo and careful accompaniment.

It was preceded by "Uirapurú", a tone poem that was later a ballet, by the great Brazilian Heitor Villalobos, as a homage to the composer on the fiftieth anniversary of his death. The music takes its name from a small Amazonian bird of varied singing, and its luxuriant orchestration and melodic richness evoke the jungle with a symbiosis of the telluric and French impressionism. The conductor´s colorful handling of the 18-minute piece gave us the true ambience of this very personal creation. The concert ended with the "long" Stravinsky "Firebird" suite (1945), which adds to the five-number 1919 suite another five (three pantomimes, a pas de deux and a scherzo) and changes some aspects of the orchestration, notably in the Finale. Diemecke showed again his empathy with such music and got a splendid version out of an inspired Philharmonic.

The very long following concert offered the Mahler Ninth Symphony for the second time this season (it had been done already by the National Symphony under Calderón) and preceded it with the charming Weber Second Concerto for clarinet, which allowed us to meet one of the best players in the world, Wenzel Fuchs (he is the soloist of the Berlin Philharmonic). Although the constant pendular movement of his body was distracting, the execution was fabulously accurate in the fast passages and had moments of breathtaking subtlety in pianissimo that were on the verge of inaudibility and somehow remained full and beautiful.

Mahler´s Ninth is enormous and notoriously risky, both for its exacting technical requirements and its constantly changing moods, as well as for the heavenly Nirvanesque slowness of the Finale. Although Diemecke is up to the challenge, this time the Phil didn´t respond quite so well, especially the violins in the highest reaches; and there were some hesitant or maladjusted moments in the Rondo Burlesque. But I also missed a measure of inwardness.

The other two concerts combined Diemecke with our great pianist Nelson Goerner. In the first he was at his best in that special "tour de force", Ravel´s expressionistic and weird Concerto for left-hand piano, of such imagination that at times it seems that both hands are playing. An intellectual grasp of the layers of meaning the music contains and the complete command of the mechanics gave us a model version from the pianist, although there were minor smudges and slidings from the very difficult orchestral parts, and also some exaggerated stridency. Goerner played an encore with exquisite taste, the slow movement of Schubert´s Sonata op.120. The Ravel had been preceded by that wonderful Haydn Symphony, Nº 96, "The Miracle", in an interpretation that was full of character though not without some unhinged details.

There was a rather interesting premiere by a local composer starting the Second Part: Claudio Alsuyet´s "…De sombras", symphonic movement. As he tells us in the hand programme, this work started as a Viola Concerto for Marcela Magin, and there are traces of it yet; since then he transformed it twice, this is the second mutation and it adds a homage to his teacher Julio Palacio, who died last year. Also, it is part of a diptych, for the second piece is called "…De luces". The music alternates shadows and illuminations, consonance and dissonance, within its basically tonal sound. I found it attractive and expressive.

The disconcerting and fascinating Ninth Symphony by Shostakovich (1945) with its satirical, acid, tongue-in-cheek tunes, was hardly what was expected at the end of the war: no patriotic epic with chorus but a light, brilliant score. Diemecke caught its spirit perfectly and most of the playing was very accurate.

The second collaboration of Diemecke and Goerner was in a concert for Nuova Harmonia. The pianist played the mighty Beethoven "Emperor" Concerto (Nº 5) with his wonted seriousness; a lot was very good, but I felt that his approach was too heavy, obscuring sometimes melodic orchestral material; and though a couple of blurred passages were circumstantial considering the solidity of his technique, he has accustomed us to perfection. He was very well accompanied, with a strongly profiled statement of the principal themes. Goerner played beautifully two Chopin encores: the variegated Nocturne Nº 13 and the fleet Etude op.10 Nº 4.

The moody and dramatic Symphony Nº 2 by Sibelius provided a fine ending in the intense interpretation by Diemecke, who again showed his uncanny memory and painstaking phrasing in this very complicated music, so personal and innovative.

For Buenos Aires Herald

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