I was much impressed by the young Finnish lady conductor, Susanna Mälkki, who had a splendid rapport with the players and showed herself always precise, elegant and knowledgeable, displaying well-controlled energy in widely divergent styles. Apart from an arguably overfast Menuet, a splendid performance of Haydn´s last symphony, Nº 104, "
In 1967 I attended the Prazské Jaro (Prague Spring Festival) and I heard admirable concerts at different venues, including Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic, Schwarzkopf and David Oistrakh. Last October I was back, and I heard a splendid all-Martinu gala at the Státni Opera (State Opera), the other important opera house (I wrote about the Národni Dívadlo and Smetana´s "The Bartered Bride" some weeks ago). Although the Statni´s programming is mostly given over to the standard operatic international repertoire, this was a special occasion. The theatre is big and very beautiful, with a stunning plafond in rococo style. Martinu is certainly the most interesting Czech composer of the twentieth century; writing in prodigious quantity and in a variety of tonal styles, he makes me think of other prolific creators like Milhaud and Villa-Lobos.
All the music in this concert was new to me and I enjoyed it enormously. "Skála" ("The Rock"), an expressive symphonic prelude; a 5-movement orchestral suite, "Commedia dell´arte", from the opera "Theatre behind the Gate", quicksilver music of charmingly archaic feeling; the sprightly "Saltarello" from the opera "Mirandolina"; two admirable fragments from the opera "Ariadna"; the world premiere of the youthful "Nocturne Nº
Budapest, my first visit to that attractive city. The marvelous Palace of Arts inaugurated in 2005 boasts among other buildings the Bartók National Concert Hall, beautifully designed along modern lines, quite ample and of satisfying acoustics. I heard the National Philharmonic (Nemzeti Filharmonikusok) under Zoltan Kocsis in a Classicist programme done with an appropriately reduced orchestra: Haydn´s rarely played Symphony Nº 87, Mozart´s Piano Concerto Nº 12, K.414 (with Kocsis) and Beethoven´s famous Seventh Symphony. Accurate, clean and stylish playing from orchestra and soloist.
Finally, my beloved Vienna and its legendary concert hall, the Musikverein. The Vienna Symphony was conducted by the American Leonard Slatkin in a substantial programme that included Ives´ "The Unanswered Question", Shostakovich´s Second Cello Concerto and Dvorák´s Ninth Symphony, "From the New World". High-level music-making throughout, with special enthusiasm for the Argentine Sol Gabetta, certainly one of the best cellists the world has.
Vienna has a myriad of concerts each week, at the Musikverein, the Konzerthaus and many churches. The Hofburgkapelle gives a different mass each Sunday with the Vienna Choir Boys.
For Buenos Aires Herald