domingo, mayo 30, 2010

The Colón finally opens: the great icon is back

            Well, the great day finally arrived. After a two-year delay and countless problems, the Colón Theatre is back,  serving the community.  Two events marked the occasion: a reinauguration mixed programme on May 24, and the first performance of the revival of "La Boheme" on May 26.
            The May 24 occasion  preceded by a day the big celebration of the Bicentenary on 9 de Julio Avenue. I report on it as shown in television (mainly Canal 13), for the Press Department of the Municipal Government didn´t agree to provide the HERALD with a ticket, though other newspapers had them (a thoroughly undemocratic trait).
            There were two shows, one outside the Colón on the Cerrito side, and the other on the Colón facing Libertad. I will describe both very synthetically.
            CERRITO. TV isn´t the best way to see a big extravaganza street show, and a lot of detail was missing. However, the aesthetics (and even the ethics) of what was offered seemed to me very questionable. It lasted about 40 minutes and mixed a pompous and redundant voice in off insisting that "The Colón is for everybody" (not so with the huge prices applied by the current administration) with images presented in a technologically advanced method called "mapping" (imported), plus an enormous ensemble of dancers (about 150) doing very conventional steps in a big stage. We were shown a hodgepodge of testimonies from famous artists such as Caballé plus fragments of interpretations by singers, orchestras or solo players plus references to the recent restoration in unabashedly laudatory terms. But there were on the one hand problems with the continuity of the sound, and on the other plainly wrong decisions: if you show an artist it must be in something done at the Colón: Pavarotti in "La Boheme" but not in "I Pagliacci". If you choose a fragment of Beethoven´s Fifth Symphony you can´t have a conflation of bits from it, and you can´t have the images of several conductors with the same interpretation for that just isn´t so: each one has his phrasing and tempo. And if you put on Callas in "Norma", present her as she was in 1949 before the "cura dimagrante", not the sexy slim Callas of about 1956. For she was here in 1949. And so on.  The whole thing could have been done so much better.
            LIBERTAD. There were two shows here: the Red Carpet just outside, up the stairs under the marquee and then into the foyer, and the artistic programme in the big hall.  The best parallel of the Red Carpet may not be the Oscar show but it gives the idea: mediatic rather than cultural, image rather than substance. How "they" looked, what "they" wore. And the lamentable team of Canal 13 showing plainly their total lack of information on cultural matters both in their references to the viewing public and in their short interviews. Samples: they asked Inés Pertiné and Fernando de la Rúa if they thought Shakira should perform at the Colón; Inés said yes, Fernando (to his credit) said no, the Colón is for classical music. A very unkempt Ángel Mahler was incited to present his "Dracula" at the Colón; of course, he said,  he would love to do it… The presenters never said clearly that we would see the Second Act of "La Boheme"; no, we would see "La Boheme" (without qualifying,  that means the whole of it). Ditto about "Swan Lake", of which we saw fragments of the Third Act. However, some interviews were better: Sergio Renán, Julio Bocca. Many highly popular people were attending the Colón for the first time, and some declared they didn´t like opera. But the Colón even for them is not only an icon but a place to be seen…if it´s the reinauguration. Politicians of course were rampant, but none from the National Government; Cristina was peeved with Macri and issued a blanket "no" to any functionary that would have liked to be present. Great musicians  weren´t summoned for interviews, but Susana Giménez was highly visible.
            The Show. It started of course with the  National Anthem, by the Buenos Aires Philharmonic under Javier Logioia Urbe and the usual unmusical "community choir" (pity that the Colón Chorus was absent; it would have provided a solid basis). Then, unannounced until the last minute, the Orchestra played in the pit the Dances from "Huemac" by Pascual De Rogatis ( who though Italian lived most of his life here), thus providing the only presence of "Argentine" music at the Bicentenary special presentation. Then the curtain drop went up (it was the "historical" from 1936, newly restored; you won´t see the new Kuitca drop until October) and we saw fragments of Tchaikovsky´s "Swan Lake" with its classical choreography. The Corps de Ballet seemed in good shape, with some proficient solos, but the best thing was Silvina Perillo as the Black Swan, well partnered by Alejandro Parente. The production is handsome, and the playing was reasonably accurate (under Logioia Orbe). Clearly we were back in Big Theatre ground, something that can only be provided otherwise by the Argentino of La Plata.
            After an interminable interval (close to an hour, during which catering was provided to several hundreds of the audience) in which we were shown some of the views of foyer, Golden Hall and corridors (they looked well), back in the hall to see "La Boheme" ´s shortest act, the Second. I won´t say much about it for I got a much clearer impression two days later, when I saw the whole opera. Only that it looked too glam and chockfull of people. After that, the slow desconcentration, for other hundreds remained inside for another round of catering.
                                               "LA BOHEME"
            There were two shows for the packed audience of the Gran Abono on the 26th: the opera on stage, but much more vital and important, the theatre itself. And I , along with most people, must give a positive verdict on what can be seen by the public: the theatre looks beautiful, not overbrilliant as I feared, but in tasteful pastel tones, and very clean. True, there are debatable points: I don´t like the holes in the roof of the Golden Hall, though the main picture  is quite a pleasure to look at; they are there for the air-conditioning system, but I wish the leaders of the restoration had found a way to mask them. The corridors, the White Hall, are a bit different but the ensemble is quite recognizably our old Colón refreshed. In the great auditorium, seats, lights, curtains, look fine. We are back at what is for music lovers their second home, and I can´t avoid confessing I was happy, even if I know that in the rest of the theatre that are still plenty of wrong decisions and problems to be solved. And of course the matter of the 400 transferees is profoundly galling, and Judge Scheibler has again pronounced sentence against the Government. But the theatre is alive once more. And the acoustics seem almost the same; my doubt comes from the fact that some singers were heard with less volume and projection (especiallly Virginia Tola) than I imagined. But the sound of both orchestra and choir was healthy and true.
            The opera: I won´t say anything about "La Boheme", the Puccini masterpiece is the most overperformed opera in the repertoire, here and elsewhere, and would certainly not have been my choice for the reinauguration.  After seeing countless revivals, I would put this one somewhere in the middle. Throughout its history the Colón often made do with second-rate artists hoping that the magic of the piece would anyway produce a success.
            Singers were a true cosmopolitan combo. An Argentine Mimì, Virginia Tola; a Romanian tenor, Marius Manea; an American Musetta, Nicole Cabell; a Sardinian, Marco Caria; an (I believe) Russian Colline, Denis Sedov. Manea, Cabell and Caria made their local debuts, and are quite young. For me the best singer was  Caria, with a firm lyric baritone of pleasant timbre and a good vocal line, but the strongest personality was Cabell, a truly disinvolt Musetta, even with some acid notes. I found Tola below expectations, her voice too contained, although always musical and tasteful. Manea is still too green, with a bleat to his tone in the highest register, and doubtful phrasing, though he had some agreeable moments. I disliked the funereal and unpleasant timbre of Sedov, who made little of "Vecchia zimarra". Of the locals Omar Carrión was his reliable self as Schaunard, Fernando Grassi was a traditional buffo Benoit and Leonardo Estévez a better-sung than usual Alcindoro, but looking too young for the part.
            The resident ensembles sounded well under Stefano Ranzani, an old hand at this repertoire, who phrased knowledgeably even if he lacked a measure of poetry. For the occasion the Choir had a new director, the Argentine Antonio Domenighini, who acquitted himself professionally, and Valdo Sciammarella obtained fresh and accurate singing from his children.
            Hugo De Ana is an Argentine with a vast international career as integral producer, for he is also responsible for the stage and costume designs and the lighting plot. This certainly provides an integrated point of view, but it doesn´t  mean that it´s right. And to my mind this particular "Boheme" isn´t. I disliked several main points: a) he claims to translate the time of his production from the 1840s to the end of the Belle Époque, but this had an abrupt closure by World War I in 1914; how come we see a car  and a motorcycle from at least the 1920s? Anyway, several historical references should preclude any such change of time (King Louis Philippe, his minister Guizot, are cited; and especially the Barrière d´Enfer of the Third Act, for it  was one of the barriers that indeed were guarded by customs officers at different points going out of or into Paris; the French capital changed after Haussmann some decades later). b) Why an open-air garret without a containing wall? No wonder they are cold… And why half-destroyed, leaving no comfortable place for the horsing around of the Bohemians? c) Why an over-populated Café Momus, providing such confusion that at times you didn´t make out who was singing? And why the military band isn´t on stage but on the central corridor of the stalls , contradicting Puccini and his librettists? d) And on the Third Act, why such an unrecognizable hostelry,  why no windows in it, why the snow in April, why the very uneven ground in what is supposed to be a road? There were some good points in his handling of the singers, and clearly a professional hand was there, especially in the costumes, but a lot was misguided.
            However, I went out with a positive feeling. No great "Boheme", but the Colón was doing what it must. And those are the real news. First-rate quality will eventually come, we all hope. Time, money and some guidance as to the proper artistic ways should do the trick.
For Buenos Aires Herald

Fine concerts from several institutions

            It´s important to start with the right foot as a season begins, and this year the Mozarteum Argentino did the trick: the Dresden Philharmonic visited us for  the fifth time, and this gave us a further opportunity to keep in touch with its much admired Principal Conductor, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, an old friend of Buenos Aires ( I think he has been here no less than  eight times in  more than four decades). The venue for the initial concerts was the Coliseo, and the Mozarteum will be there for the next two months, before transferring to the Colón. Unfortunately, they have accepted the uncomfortable new starting time decided by the Colón´s Director Pedro Pablo García Caffi, 8 p.m., too early for a city whose rush hour hasn´t yet  ended then, and circumstantially abetted by leftists blocking traffic in two successive days, so that concerts began at about 8,15 p.m.
            Dresden, the marvelous city on the Elbe that I visited (and reported upon) last October, boasts two quality orchestras: the Philharmonic and the Staatskapelle; the latter is the Semper Oper´s orchestra but also gives concerts. Their Phil is almost purely German and not "machista" like the Vienna and Berlin Phils: the Dresdeners have a healthy contingent of girls, and very talented ones, as shown by concertino Heike Janicke,  flutist Karin Hofmann and violist Christina Biwank, all three doing outstanding solos. The Orchestra is very compact and homogeneous, fully professional in every department; they have the German tradition in their bones and it certainly makes a difference. Under Frühbeck, who in his late seventies keeps fit and vigorous, we had orthodox and well-built versions, tending somewhat to slowness in certain bits, but always tasteful and with a fine dark bronze color ideal for Brahms, who had the lion´s part with his first two symphonies.
            I might add that the full orchestra as listed has 108 players, and that I was surprised to find as Honorary Members people long dead as Wilhelm Kempff .  It has a long tradition, for it was born in 1870. Among its more recent conductors can be mentioned Michel Plasson (who came to BA with them), Marek Janowski and Kurt Masur. Frühbeck was named in 2003. Usefully, the Mozarteum´s hand programme gives us the dates of their earlier visits: 1992, 2000, 2002 all after the Wall crumbled.
            Cellist Johannes Moser, whom I believe I heard some years ago, came along for this tour. His first contribution was  in Schumann´s Cello Concerto, a late work with an inspired main melody but afflicted by problems of structure and flagging inspiration; Moser´s generally solid technique has an Achilles´ heel in some brusque and harsh attacks, but he can also mold "pianissimo" a soulful phrase.  Although those negative aspects also appeared in Richard Strauss´ "Don Quichotte", he drew a noble portrait of the distressed knight and showed a perfect integration with the Orchestra. The almost 40-minute continuous work (Introduction, Theme, Ten Variations and Epilogue) is a marvel of orchestration and invention, containing some amazingly advanced passages for 1897, and I very much welcome its inclusion, for the cello part precludes its frequent programming, which would be certainly deserved. With fine control from Frühbeck of its myriad complications, it was a great pleasure to hear it from such a capable orchestra.
            There was a short and interesting premiere: Wolfgang Rihm¨s "Brahmsliebewalzer", Nº 2 of "Three Waltzes", a subtle transformation of his predecessor´s music done with an ear for texture  and a sense of contrast.
            Encores, all wonderful: Brahms´ Hungarian Dance Nº 5, and two Spanish pieces that Frühbeck does inimitably: the Intermezzo from "Goyescas" (Granados) and his signature piece, that irresistible Interlude from "La Boda de Luis Alonso" (Jiménez). The Dresdeners all seemed born Madrileños!
            The Stockholm Sinfonietta made its debut for Nuova Harmonia at the Coliseo. The 31 players were led by Finnish conductor Okko Kamu, who visited us twice decades ago and is now 63. I find their number rather slim  for the main symphonic items they chose, Mendelssohn´s Fourth Symphony, "Italian", and Beethoven´s Fourth, but the playing was nice and spry, though not blameless. I was very sorry that the opportunity was lost to hear some Baltic music, which is certainly what one expects from Swedish players.
            To my mind the best part of the night was the admirable playing by Stefan Arnold (German, in his forties) of Mozart´s Concerto Nº 27 for piano; pearly, precise and mindful of filling in with small cadenzas the places that are fit for that practice, the artist gave much pleasure, and he was very well accompanied. Pity that his encore was –yet again- Piazzolla (it seems that Europeans can only think of him whenever they come to Argentina), on this occasion, "Primavera".           
            The 4-minute Rachmaninov "Vocalise" was heard in a pleasant arrangement for flute, well played by Cecilie Lööken. Kamu´s encore was an engaging "Finnish tango".
            Finally, I want to put in a good word for a young Argentine pianist, Ricardo Forcinito, a pupil of Antonio Formaro. He played at the Auditorium of the Facultad de Derecho (UBA), an agreeable chamber venue of  much better acoustics than the Facultad´s main hall; every Saturday at 4 p.m. a concert is programmed there.  I lack space for a detailed analysis, but he showed a soundly based technique, concentration and good style in a varied and difficult programme.
For Buenos Aires Herald

Poor productions, some good singers at Juventus and La Plata

            Currently we are resembling Europe: we are in economic and political crisis, and we are witnessing productions of opera that leave the beholder completely dissastisfied and angry. I will qualify this:  I believe there´s still a much higher group of opera lovers that want to see stagings that conform to what was in the mind of both librettist and composer, and I call it respect for what has been created. True, you need a public that has seen truthful productions and that has acquired what people of my generation call "culture": those who realize that if you see Verdi´s "Don Carlo" (e.g.) you must know something about Spain at the time of Philip II; those who can compare; those who have done their "homework" as operatic fans.
            Indeed, I have seen atrocities in Berlin and Vienna stages (and commented them on the HERALD)  that have provoked nary a reaction from the audience, who by now seem totally accustomed to such travesties. There I felt that the game was over and that opera as I knew it was Kaputt, and I  had both indignation and sadness.  In recent years some of the Argentine productions elicited from me similar sensations. Now it would seem that the pace of change in the bad direction is accelerating.
            Daniel Suárez Marzal has had a long career in opera, first as a baritone and then as a producer and also as the Argentino´s Artistic Director. A cultivated man with an important cultural background, capable of very good work, he has strayed so far in recent years from inner logic and even common sense that I simply can´t understand such  misguided evolution, especially considering that his stint as the Argentino´s Director was one of the best (he had brilliant repertory ideas. His recent "Don Giovanni" (Mozart) at the Argentino turned out to be: tasteless, at times ridiculous (Leporello playing football during his two initial arias), nonsensical (the final scene of the First Act), against the grain of the characters, absurd in its lack of essential props (no stone statue, no semblance of a cemetery), clumsy in the movements indicated to the singers, and I could go on. And of course a translation in time and space (neither seventeenth or eighteenth century nor Seville) nowhere warranted.
            Part of the general senselessness were the stage design of Nicolás Boni, an abstract structure with a heavy, uncomfortable tilt and many doors, which almost never was adaptable to the needs of the plot, or the costumes of Mini Zuccheri, certainly one of her most objectionable jobs. 
            The Argentine conductor Andrés Juncos has had recent European experience, but I found his reading rather slow and opaque, with a lackluster orchestra; a good point, the harpsichord recitatives by Cecilia Prieto.The Choir was nondescript.Three singers were worthwhile: the very young bass-baritone Fernando Radó, who at 24 has already had a long Berlin stay with Barenboim´s company, has a splendid voice and uses it with consummate ease; he is tall and handsome, but looks much too young for Giovanni and was made to act by the producer as if he were a glam rocker. Ricardo Seguel (debut) turned out to be a valuable Chilean bass baritone as Leporello, with a firm voice and emission, though he had to put up with the clownesque indications of Suárez Marzal. Carla Filipcic Holm as Elvira sang well, especially her final aria, but was badly dressed with no thought of dissimulating her rotund physique. María Bugallo was quite overparted as Donna Anna. Santiago Burgi was a small-scaled and rather restricted but dutiful Ottavio. The peasant couple was quite nice: Sonia Stelman as Zerlina and Fabián Veloz as Masetto sang accurately and moved well. Finally, Mario De Salvo sang with firm intonation but small volume his Commendatore. 
            I felt some trepidation at the announcement that Juventus Lyrica would tackle Bellini´s "Norma", a masterpiece of bel canto that needs the very best the world can provide. By such exalted standards this wasn´t an interesting revival, but there were some merits. Soledad de la Rosa –apart from her overweight, to be blunt about it- will never be the dramatic soprano the name part needs; she did some agreeable lyrical singing, but at the performance I saw (the last of four) she seemed tired and some highs were harsh; the recitatives went for nothing. I was well impressed by the young Guadalupe Barrientos as Adalgisa, a true mezzo with considerable command of line. Darío Sayegh as Pollione was stalwart though hardly subtle, and Roman Modzelewicz sounded and looked light for Oroveso. María Eugenia Caretti was a good Clotilde and Hernán Sánchez Arteaga an expressive Flavio though his timbre isn´t agreeable.
            I was glad to hear the Orquesta Académica de Buenos Aires under Carlos Calleja, the ex Colón Académica refusing to die and showing its worthiness with the appropriate combination of veteran first desks and young people; and Calleja was in proper style, although some tempi were slow. The Choir was acceptable, no more.
            Blessedly this time producer Oscar Barney Finn didn´t change time, though "place" was moot: I didn´t recognize in Emilio Basaldúa´s semicircle of "metallic bamboos" anything resembling a Druid forest: and Zuccheri´s costumes again seemed doubtful. The production was dull but not insulting; some of it even looked  like "Norma".
For Buenos Aires Herald

The wonders of Chiquitanía´s Festival

            This is indeed a wonder story. It concerns the Jesuits and their missions, that extraordinary experiment  born as a religious order in the times of the Council of Trent as a strong Counterreform movement, with the great figure of St Ignatius of Loyola leading it, and then Carlo Borromeo. Intelligent, cultivated and practical, the Jesuits felt the need of contact with the real world, the integration of the clergy with the people.
            When they came to  South America  late in the Seventeenth century they soon found their calling; strong cultural penetration in cities such as Córdoba, but also the development of "estancias";  and they soon imagined the need for missions in Guaranitic areas in what are now Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil and Bolivia. They founded a communitarian system that was based on respect for the capacities and rights of the natives, and they showed skill  in leadership. The mission was centred on the church and the village grew around it, whilst the religious practices blended syncretically Christian beliefs with local traditions.
            Chiquitanía is a big region  in Bolivia situated two hundred Km. East of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, in the direction of Brazil.  San José de Chiquitos is the principal village of a wide zone, and it was originally a mission, as others in that huge wet area, very green and rather hot. The Jesuits came around 1670 and in the following decades the missions were created: Concepción, San Javier, San Ignacio, San Miguel, San Rafael, Santa Ana, Santiago, San José. They were too great a success, and too prosperous: in 1767 the Jesuits were expelled by order of Carlos III. The inertial force of their great work subsisted for many years, but gradually decline sent in. Until our times, when about 35 years ago the Swiss architect Hans Roth took it upon himself to restore the churches, which he did brilliantly.
            And then came the discovery of thousands of pages of scores, displaying a rich repertoire of admirable Baroque music, both from Europe and from Chiquitanía, some of them even created by natives, though most are anonymous. North of that region, in the missions of Moxos, another vast reservoir of music was discovered. And then, a Polish Jesuit, Piotr Nawrot, undertook the long-range purpose of editing the music. Recording companies in Bolivia, Argentina and Europe documented the finds with valid interpretations by numerous groups. And 16 years ago Nawrot launched the First International Festival of Renaissance and Baroque Music "Missions of Chiquitos". Hotels were built in the different villages, a circuit was established, and the Festival took place every two years. The recent one was the Eighth.
             Although roads are still pretty bad, hotels are comfortable, the churches are lovely and with fine acoustics, and the musical fare was mostly interesting. Concerts also take place at Santa  Cruz de la Sierra.  The Festival takes too weeks and you go from village to village. Several companies organize this trip, I went by Exprinter and was quite satisfied. It is a complete experience, for concerts are open to everybody and about two thirds of the audience are local people, listening with complete concentration and impeccable manners. The charm of the villages and the warmth of the Bolivianos, as well as the detailed visit of the churches, complete the panorama.
            On April 23 I started with the right foot by listening at Concepción to the marvelous Nordic Brass Ensemble, a Norwegian group that was paying a return visit and had quite an odyssey to arrive: more than 40 hours by car from Norway to Madrid, then by air to Buenos Aires and Santa Cruz, and then many tortuous hours of delay for the final two hundred kilometers due to the blocking of roads by Evo Morales "piqueteros"… But they played as if they were fresh and rested, with marvelous precision and intonation, a rich repertoire including music for Charles V, a humoristic "Battalia" by Biber, pieces by Philidor and G. Gabrieli.
            At San Ignacio de Velasco the following day we heard the Bolivian group Paz y Bien, 23 choristers and a small orchestra, playing Chiquitos pieces, sacred and instrumental, with reasonable quality. Sunday 25: a substandard concert by the String Orchestra San Rafael, at the homonymous mission (11 a.m.), and then back at San Ignacio (8,30 p.m.) the  Wind Ensemble Hombres Nuevos, a Bolivian group prepared with much dedication by the Frenchman  Antoine Duhamel, with an ample panorama of European music and several Chiquitos pieces; the playing was quite good, though of course not in the highly professional level of the Norwegians.
            Monday 26: Back at Concepción, a very satisfying Polish choir, the Adam Mickiewicz University Choir  UAM1 from Poznan, with fine and unknown Polish music, music from many European countries and a couple of pieces from the Bolivia-Perú region. And finally, two concerts at the Parroquia San Roque of Santa Cruz: a group from our Mendoza, the Violeta Club led by Gabriela Guembe, featuring our own Herald collaborator Ramiro Albino in recorders and an outstanding soprano, Griselda López: a fascinating programme of Latin American Baroque music from Mexico to Bolivia, admirably done. And  a Spanish group, La Tempestad, an instrumental quartet who gave us with good playing such little-known composers as Gaetano Brunetti, Domingo Porretti and Manuel Cavzaa, along with two of Johann Sebastian Bach´s sons, Carl Philipp Emmanuel and Johann Christoph Friedrich.
For Buenos Aires Herald


lunes, mayo 03, 2010

Good starts for several musical cycles

            The musical season is finally upon us, after some pre-season isolated concerts. I have just come back from a trip to Chiquitanía (a region of Bolivia), to experience their astonishing Baroque Festival (in late May I will write about it) and this made miss the starts
of Nuova Harmonia, who presented the ensemble Gli Archi (debut), Festivales Musicales (Horacio Lavandera in an all-Chopin programme, an homage to the composer´s birth bicentenary) and Pilar Golf (the chamber version of Orff´s "Carmina Burana"). But I caught before I left some concerts I want to share with the Herald´s readers.
            Through the years I have admired and enjoyed the work of the Bach Academy, a "daughter" of Festivales led by Mario Videla with acumen and taste. We had a visiting group making its debut in the first concert of the Academy: the Madrigalchor Munich directed by Martin Steidler. In the privileged acoustics of the Central Methodist Church (the Academy´s usual venue) they gave us a fine account of themselves in an important all-German repertoire. They began with Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672), to my mind the first really great composer of that country, as shown by his beautiful psalm setting "Die mit Tränen säen" ("Those who sow with tears", Nº 126). Mendelssohn had a very serious side to his temperament, balancing the mercurial charm of "A Midsummer Night´s Dream"; his powerful motet "Warum toben die Heiden" ("Why do the nations so furiously rage together") sets Psalm Nº 2 with stark grandeur.
            Friedrich Rückert wrote two poems with the same title: "Nachtwache" ("Night Vigil"); they were set by Brahms with intimate feeling, nicely rendered by a choir that some minutes ago had articulated  with fine precision and strength the contrapuntal lines of the psalms. Max Reger´s severe Neo-Baroque language  is very respectable but can get oppressive, as happens in his "Three Spiritual Songs", Op. 138, which sound accomplished but academic; not so in another work of his, a famous passage from Ecclesiastes, "O Tod, wie bitter bist du" ("O Death, how bitter art thou"),  a long tragic lament of undoubted tragic impact in Reger´s setting. Johann Sebastian Bach´s monumental motet "Jesu, meine Freude" ("Jesus, my joy") lasts 21 minutes and is one of his most important scores. It is quite a challenge for a choir, and  Steidler´s steady command got fine results from the fresh young disciplined voices.
            I joyfully welcome the birth of a new Argentine quartet, called Petrus, for this genre is the purest form of chamber music and can be delectable in proper hands. These certainly are: Pablo Saraví and  Hernán Briático (violins), Silvina Álvarez (viola) and Gloria Pankaeva (cello) are already a real team; they know that quartet playing is a subtle interlacing of voices and that good results depend on quality execution from each partner and fluid dialogue. I expected a high level from the violinists, but I was surprised by the ladies: the young violist is quite a find, with her terse timbre and clean articulation, and Pankaeva brought us the best of the Slavic school, with especially fine intonation. All four work hand-in-glove and have a true sense of style.
            The programme brought a welcome rarity (maybe a premiere?): the "Five Novellettes" op.15 by Glazunov, an incredibly talented 16-year-old in 1881: with fine technique, charm and inspired melody, the five parts amounting to 28 minutes are named (and respond to their denominations faithfully): "Alla spagnola", "Orientale", "Interludium in modo antico", "Valse" and "All´Ungherese". The best of Haydn is found in his quartets: op.76 Nº 2, "of the fifths" (reference to the predominant interval of the first movement), is one of his maturest. An all-time favorite ended the concert: Quartet op.96, "American", by Dvorák, perennially fresh in its ideas.  And freshness also applies to the encore: the "Criolla" by our Luis Gianneo.
            The Sofitel series programmed by La Bella Música (led by Patricia Pouchulu) "Soirées Musicales" got off to a fine beginning in a promising year. The intimate Jean Mermoz hall has agreeable acoustics.  Claudio Barile is flute soloist of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic and has a vast trajectory. He was accompanied by Viviana Lazzarin, keyboard player (piano and harpsichord) of the Camerata Bariloche. They were a well-integrated  duo.
            Barile gave us a running commentary on the works they chose, even giving musical examples in the case of J.S.Bach´s Sonata in B minor, BWV 1030 . However, I prefer a less colorful, plainer phrasing in Bach, and certainly a harpsichord instead of a piano. But apart from this, the rest of the programme seemed to me right in both style and execution. French subtle harmonies go well with Barile´s variety of timbre, and he was very convincing in three attractive scores: the Fantasy for flute and piano by Fauré, a contest piece with a slow and a fast part; the very apposite arrangement (called "Bilitis") by Georges Lambert and Jung-Wha Lee of Debussy´s "Six Antique Epigraphs"; and Eugène Bozza´s "Image" for flute solo. Lazzarin gave us clean playing and some subtleties of phrasing.
            The programme ended with less-known Piazzolla: the Etude 6 for flute solo, and a series written for Paris, "Histoire du tango", in its four chronological evocations: "Brothel", "Café 1930", "Night Club" and "Concert d´aujourd´hui". Both scores are interesting and the artists played them finely.
            As usual in these concerts, there were champagne (before) and appetizers (after) in the contiguous hall.