miércoles, diciembre 16, 2009

Wrapping-up time for concert life

The long Summer snooze of concert life is at hand; it´s wrapping-up time. XXth-XXIst century music will be the subject of a separate article.

The Buenos Aires Philharmonic (BAP) kept up its standard in the last stretches of the season. Enrique Arturo Diemecke, their Principal Conductor, led three of the final four concerts. The first had Argentine violinist Sami Merdinian in Barber´s Concerto; a pleasant piece, it was acceptably played, no more. But Bruckner´s mighty Fourth Symphony ("Romantic") showed orchestra and conductor at their best, using the Novak edition according to the programme notes by Daniel Varacalli Costas. Resplendent brass and fine integration of contrasting elements were the hallmarks of the interpretation.

Another violinist, Elmar Oliveira, came back after many years of absence. Now apparently in his sixties, he is still first-rate, as he showed in Saint-Saëns´ Third Concerto, but not as gorgeous in sound and perfect in mechanism as he was two decades ago in Sibelius. Diemecke gave us beautiful versions of two scores by Mendelssohn (the Overture to "Paulus" and the Fifth Symphony, "Reform") and Richard Strauss´ Suite of "Der Rosenkavalier".

Alejo Pérez has had an enormously productive and eclectic year. The Second Part of his concert was interesting, for it provided a good sample of that wonderful Borodin opera, "Prince Igor", absent from the Colón since 1948; choirs, the Polovtsian dances and march, but no arias or duets. With fast tempi and strong dynamism, Pérez got a vibrant performance from the BAP and the Colón Choir under Marcelo Ayub. The First Part gave us ill-advisedly an unnecessary premiere: the transformation by Alexander Warenberg of Rachmaninov´s Second Symphony into a curtailed "Fifth Piano Concerto" (three movements instead of four). When Warenberg remained close to the original it sounded well (of course) but his own bits were anodine. It was beautifully played, however, by the young Ukrainian Anna Fedorova (debut).

The final concert, conducted by Diemecke, was South-American. "Inti Raymi" ("The Sun Feast of the Incas"), by Esteban Benzecry, sounds like early-period Ginastera with some avant-garde addenda, brilliant but not too well integrated. The premiere of Villa-Lobos´ "The discovery of Brazil" presented a full hour of tremendously variegated music derived from a 1937 film by Humberto Mauro. This is vital, uneven music, with lively melodies and rhythms in contrasting styles, in an uneasy but interesting blend of European tradition and aboriginal music. Diemecke´s phenomenal memory was again in evidence and the BAP followed him faithfully; in the last ten minutes, "First Mass in Brazil", the Colón Choir (Ayub) added its contribution.

I couldn´t attend all concerts of the final weeks of the National Symphony´s season, but the two I heard were interesting. The attraction in Carlos Vieu´s date was the fascinating and complex Stabat Mater by Karol Szymanowski; this is powerful, intense music. Although I felt that Vieu sometimes covered his soloists, he got strong performances from Mónica Ferracani, Lucila Ramos Mañé and Lucas Debevec Mayer; the Coro Polifónico Nacional under Darío Marchese gave a high-decibel, clean performance. The refined flutist Patricia Da Dalt was delectable in Debussy´s "Prelude for a faun´s siesta", and Denise Richart was a small-scaled soloist in Ravel´s Piano Concerto. The session ended with a well-detailed "Finlandia" by Sibelius. The venue was the Bolsa de Comercio.

Andrés Spiller at the Facultad de Derecho led a difficult programme where again the high point was Da Dalt´s splendid playing, this time in the arduous and interesting Penderecki Flute Concerto, one of the better works of the period following his avant-garde stance. I found little of interest in Amanda Guerreño´s "Resonancias" (premiere). The "Rückert Lieder" by Mahler can be a moving occasion, but not as sung by Susanna Moncayo, whose style is lamentably impregnated by her incursions into popular music. A very professional version of Ravel´s marvelous Second Suite from "Daphnis and Chloe" closed the evening.

There were two worthwhile events at the Teatro Argentino of La Plata: a concert version of "La Damnation de Faust" by Berlioz and the mighty Second Symphony ("Resurrection") by Mahler. This is the sort of repertoire that makes an orchestra grow, and whilst the Argentino´s isn´t quite first-rate yet, it has certainly made great strides during the last years under Anzolini and Pérez. "La Damnation…" is a fascinating score; the composer didn´t call it opera, so I actually prefer a concert version, for its narrative is too disjointed but the music is wonderful. Pérez got a reasonably clean job from the orchestra, but the choir sounded a bit too backward and imprecise (director, Miguel F. Martínez). Hernán Iturralde was the best soloist as Mephisto, articulated with skill. María Luján Mirabelli gave us a warm and well-sung Marguerite, not as Italianate as I feared. Unfortunately Carlos Bengolea can no longer face the awesome requirements of this Faust. I was sorry that there were cuts, especially in the fantastic Pandemonium, the most advanced fragment of the score.

Luis Gorelik tackled the enormous Mahler Second with responsibility and fine technique, giving us an honorable account of this transcendent work. He didn´t plumb the depths, but then, few can. The Choir under Martínez sounded well and the orchestra mostly coped with the difficulties, apart from a bad trombone patch. Alejandra Malvino was noble in "Urlicht" and Ana Laura Menéndez sounded crystalline but uninvolved. It was a La Plata premiere.

A lot remains unreviewed; so be it, space is a tyrant.