miércoles, julio 14, 2010

Symphonic music´s endless variety

            The symphonic  season proceeds apace and as the weeks roll on leave some indelible marks in our spirit. There have been valuable sessions from our local orchestras and also a distinguished foreign visitor, the NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover (debut) under Eiji Oue, for Nuova Harmonia at the Coliseo; I will start this survey with them.
            One of the good musical points in Germany is the tradition of maintaining quality radio orchestras. NDR stands for Nord Deutsche Rundfunk, which means North German Radio, and it is sited in Hannover, an important city of Lower Saxony. The Radio Philharmonic was founded 60 years ago, so it is a postwar outfit. Its Principal Conductor during ten years until 2009 has been Eiji Oue, a Japanese with an impressive career who has also been the PC of the Minnesota Orchestra (at that time he came to BA and conducted our Phil) and who was chosen as tour conductor, although currently the PC is Eivind Gulberg Jensen. Every radio orchestra is supported by a tax on radio and TV users.
            I was sorry that Oue chose such a hackneyed programme: Brahms´ Violin Concerto and Dvorák´s Symphony Nº 9, "From the New World". And also that these scores cover chronologically such a restricted time: 1878 and 1893. But of course they are masterpieces, and both conductor and orchestra showed their mettle in them; the organism is typically German in its beautifully burnished mahogany tone and fine discipline, and Oue certainly has a sense of line and style, with the intensity to rise to the climaxes. In the Concerto we heard the violinist Isabelle Van Keulen (debut), much more convincing in slow dreamy music than in the virtuoso requirements, where some roughness intruded often. Oue suddenly became a clown addressing the public in the encores, although the Overture to "Ruslan and Ludmilla" (Glinka) was finely played, but I was quite bothered by his decisions both to play only the fourth part of Rossini´s "William Tell" Overture and by asking the audience to join in by applauding rhythmically. But the main point remains that it was worthwhile to get to know this fine orchestra.
            I recently referred to the recuperation of fine acoustics by our main orchestras and I mentioned that the National Symphony (Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional) has finally returned to the Auditorio de Belgrano. But before that there were pre-season concerts at the Bolsa de Comercio, an over-resonant venue. I want to mention an interesting concert well conducted by Roberto Luvini, where I deeply enjoyed the marvelous "Missa brevis" by Kodály with the Coro Polifónico Nacional (also conducted by Luvini) and outstanding soloists: Soledad de la Rosa, Luis Gaeta, Alejandra Malvino; and going down one step but still good, Duilio Smiriglia and Verónica Canaves.  The First Part started with the Bachianas Brasileiras Nº 4 by Villalobos, an important score professionally played except for a doubtful horn, and the world premiere of the Concerto for timpani, plates and orchestra ("plates" are instruments such as the xylophone or the marimba), by our septuagenarian composer Roque De Pedro, a piece without much content but crafted with skill and easy on the ear (Marcos Serrano and Lea Prime were the able soloists).
            Unfortunately, the first concert at the Auditorio collided with the Dresden Philharmonic, so I missed Mahler´s Sixth Symphony under Pedro Calderón. But I was there for the concert of June 4, featuring Shostakovich´s  Symphony Nº 12, "The Year 1917", and Mozart´s Piano Concerto Nº 19, with Claudio Santoro. I found the pianist´s playing quite satisfying, with accuracy, style and charm, and the conductor was closely attuned to the style. But I couldn´t help lamenting that the originally programmed piece wasn´t done: the splendid Cherubini Requiem in C minor. Coordination between the Coro Polifónico Nacional and the National Symphony must be ameliorated; the Choir recently presented a programme of scores with piano accompaniment when they sound so much better with their original orchestral support; a couple of those scores should have replaced the Cherubini, for which allegedly the rehearsal schedule didn´t work out. Calderón gave its full due to Shostakovich´s Nº 12, which the conductor had premiered at the Facultad de Derecho (another of the bad acoustics that plagued the Orchestra in recent years); I´m told that Calderón has programmed this year at the Auditorio a number of works which he had been forced to do in venues that are inadequate. Nº 12 isn´t the best of Shostakovich by a long shot, but it´s still worth knowing and I welcome the opportunity to hear it in decent acoustics. Gilardi´s picturesque "El gaucho con botas nuevas", with its quirky rhythms, started the concert.
            Alejo Pérez led admirably a programme of Brazilian music in the context of three concerts of Latin-American composers as a homage to the diverse Bicentenaries. The Italianate and melodic Overture to Gomes´ "Il Guarany" was followed by the premiere of an attractive work, Radamès Gnattali´s Concerto for viola and strings, beautifully played by Marcela Magin; the composer was prolific and is still barely known here: this sample of his production was enticing.  The curiously named Mozart Camargo Guarnieri is mainly popular through his "Three dances" of 1941, especially the "Brazilian" , played this time much faster than in my Fiedler recording.  The concert ended with the imaginative and dense Bachianas Brasileiras Nº 7 in a very good performance, culminating in a majestic Fugue.
For Buenos Aires Herald