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.

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