Of course the big show these last few weeks has been the Colón´s reinauguration. But today I want to stress a point: its two orchestras were home again, in those irreplaceable acoustics, after years of suffering the mediocrity of the Gran Rex, and to a lesser degree the shortcomings of the Ópera (I will keep calling it so, not Citi) and the Coliseo. And I must add another retrieval almost as important: the National Symphony is "home" again too, so to speak, for they tollerated the intollerable for three long years, working at the Facultad de Derecho (UBA) or at the Bolsa de Comercio, both with terribly over-resonant acoustics. But now, after long negotiations, they are back at the second best acoustics in town, the Auditorio de Belgrano. So these are encouraging good news .
The Buenos Aires Philharmonic, our Phil, started its subscription series at very high prices quite unwarranted, but almost everything is extremely expensive at the current Colón, as a result of the policies of the City´s Government and of García Caffi, the theatre´s General Director.
Enrique Arturo Diemecke, the successful Mexican conductor of the last seasons, remains at the helm as Artistic Director, but he has lost an important helper, for Eduardo Ihidoype is no longer the Orchestra´s Executive Director, as he is now the Director of the Colón´s Institute of Art; he hasn´t been replaced at the Phil .
The big attraction in the first concert (June 3) was the debut of pianist Natasha Binder, 9-years-old! This prodigy comes from a long line of pianists, some of them prodigies in their own right: her mother Karin Lechner, her half-uncle Sergio Tiempo. Her grandmother is Lil de Raco de Tiempo, her great-grandfather was Antonio De Raco, her great-grandmother is Elisabeth Westerkamp. And all the family has long been very much a part of Martha Argerich´s milieu (no kin). Natasha played Beethoven´s First Concerto and in this case I often closed my eyes to be able to maintain my objectivity. For at a subscription program of the Phil there can be no double standard, and I can´t write "considering her age". Well, she did a very creditable Beethoven, mostly with clean articulation and adequate style. Shortcomings: some smudges; a need for stronger statement; an interpretation lacking a personal feeling. True, she wasn´t well accompanied; in what sounded like an under-rehearsed orchestra there were plenty of misadjustments and a rather gray sound. She played eagerly two encores, a well-known D. Scarlatti sonata and the sparkling "Polichinelle" by Villa-Lobos, with very accurate fingers. Alrthough at this age she is less assertive than her mother and half-uncle were at the same age, Natasha should have a good career, for she is obviously a result of fine schooling and great natural gifts.
Beethoven was preceded with what for me was an unnecessary premiere (there´s an enormous amount of worthwhile stuff unaccountably waiting in the aisles): "El sueño de Cristóbal" by the Argentine Ezequiel Viñao, 50-years-old, who lives in New York. As "Cristóbal" is Colón, I suppose the piece was chosen symbolically for the reinauguration of the theatre. But it is arid and repetitive, with little to enjoy. Fortunately, the concert ended with R. Strauss´ magnificent (and very difficult) "Also sprach Zarathustra" ("Thus spake Zarathustra"). The beginning is famous ever since it was used in Kubrick´s film "2001", but the whole piece is tremendously inventive and luxuriously orchestrated. Diemecke showed his uncanny memory and easy rapport with the Phil, but I found his interpretation a bit too Hollywood; the score needs deeper phrasing. The orchestra was in good form, but the really important fact was that in this work the whole extent of the acoustics can be judged, and I least where I was located in the third floor of loges ("palco alto") and center left, the sound was as I remembered, clean but warm, clear but with aura and roundness. And this with a not quite adequate interim acoustics chamber (the old one was cut to pieces, the new one isn´t ready…).
The second Phil concert had several attractions: the debut of a 35-year-old Korean conductor, Shi-Yeon Sung; the rentrée of Jean-Yves Thibaudet playing this time Gershwin´s Piano Concerto; the premiere of "Rocaná" ("Space of light") by the Korean lady composer Unsuk Chin (1961). And a surprise: an encore for piano and orchestra, the José Carli arrangement of Horacio Salgán´s "A fuego lento", with the composer present.
The Gershwin had the misfortune of a bad trumpet solo in the second movement, but otherwise it was agreeably played by the orchestra and beautifully by Thibaudet within his very French, Ravelian style. I do prefer a stronger and more swinging approach, such as Ralph Votapek presented at least twice in this city, but it was nice to hear. The 22-minute score by Chin is perfectly defined by her: "it is a reflection of my dreams with its visions of immense light and an incredible magnificence of colors". She is a disciple of Ligeti and it shows; her music is sensitive and transparent, and it was conducted with virtuoso ability by Sung, a fine specimen of the redoubtable women conductors of her generation. She again showed her mettle and fine musicianship in Franck´s splendid Symphony, quite well played.
Lack of space forces me to leave a comment on the National Symphony for a future occasion.
For Buenos Aires Herald