There´s no good musical season without a reasonable amount of recitals where song reigns supreme. Fortunately, this is the case in 2010. All those I comment on are Argentine and first-rate; but for the sake of variety and information it would have been nice to have a guest or two from Europe.
I give pride of place to Bernarda Fink, to my mind the best and most renowned in Europe of our lady singers. At the top of her vast career, she´s especially sought in the Baroque repertoire but I find her splendid in other styles. For Festivales Musicales she gave a model concert at the Avenida, with the added advantage of a very talented pianist, the American pianist Anthony Spiri (debut) based in Munich, who throughout the night showed the most sensitive touch and impeccable cleanness of execution.
Her programme was cunningly formulated, with three lovely Clara Schumann Lieder between scores of her husband Robert, "Lied der Braut I " and "II", from "Myrthen", and the intimate cycle "Frauenliebe und Leben". Granting that a more extrovert and assertive way with the music can be fascinating in the throats of Lotte Lehmann or Christa Ludwig, I find Fink more attuned to the exquisite restraint and beauty of Kathleen Ferrier or Janet Baker, to name some reference parameters. The Argentine mezzo is an aristocrat of phrasing and intonation and she has perfect German.
All the Second Part was devoted to songs in Spanish. "La maja dolorosa" is a minicycle of three sad and beautiful pieces by Enrique Granados from his collection of "Tonadillas" (1910). Then, the surpise of the rarely sung but very beautiful pieces by one our best composers, Luis Gianneo: "Seis coplas populares argentinas". Although the title is in Italian, the "Quattro liriche di Antonio Machado" by Luigi Dallapiccola are in fact in Spanish, and are an astonishingly florid and melodic series from a twelve-tone composer. The "Cuatro madrigales amatorios" by Joaquín Rodrigo, based on old "Siglo de Oro" pieces, also require considerable agility. In all this attractive material, Fink´s realisations were close to ideal. The pleasure was extended in the encores: Guastavino´s "La rosa y el sauce" and Schumann´s "Ständchen", op.36 Nº 2.
At a venue new to me, the Museo Rómulo Raggio at Vicente López, of resonant acoustics but a pleasant place, two valuable artists combined I believe for the first time: baritone Víctor Torres and pianist Alexander Panizza. They tackled the Schubert posthumous collection "Schwanengesang" ("Swan´s song"), fourteen marvelously varied Lieder, some of them masterpieces ("Ständchen", "Der Doppelgänger", "Der Atlas"). They decided to precede it with "Herbst" ("Autumn"), whose link with the other Lieder is that they all datre from 1828, the year of Schubert´s death; but nobody announced it, so, many people were disconcerted. The concert was outstanding. Panizza, who is a pianist of powerful sound and mechanism, knew how to subdue the decibels when required and played with the easy command of a quality solo recitalist.
There are two types of singer for this music: the dark, tragic timbre (Hotter) or the expressive but lyrical (Prey, Fischer-Dieskau). Torres is of course of the second sort; he was in splendid voice, with his innate musicality intact and excellent German; he even rose to the challenge of the exhausting "Der Atlas".
Soledad de la Rosa is a soprano of unusual purity of timbre and emission, and very accurate intonation; an admirable instrument indeed. But the world of Lieder calls for an emotional involvement that isn´t always within her reach. Thus the strengths and occasional weaknesses of her long recital in homage to Schubert for Ars Nobilis at the Salón Anasagasti of the Jockey Club. "Myrthen" ("Myrtles") , op.25, is a big collection of 26 Lieder, extremely diverse, most of them very beautiful, with jewels such as "Der Nussbaum" and "Widmung". It is rarely sung whole, so this was a real contribution. The "Liederkreis" ("Song circle") op.39 is better-known, twelve songs, two of which are especially attractive: the dreamy "Mondnacht" and the exalted "Frühlingsnacht". I found Claudio Santoro a tasteful and very musical accompanist, with fine technique.
Alicia Nafé is a mezzosoprano with an impressive and long European career; although Argentine, she has come home to sing only a few times; her Carmen is especially remembered. Now a veteran, she still can be effective in a well-chosen programme such as she sang at the Museo de Arte Decorativo for the Fundación de Música de Cámara. She was eclectic and interesting in her choices. The refined "Chansons de Bilitis" by Debussy were followed by the still Post-Romantic Four "Gesänge" op. 2 by Alban Berg . The First Part ended with the "Cinco canciones populares argentinas" by Ginastera. Then, a pleasing rarity, "Quattro rispetti" ("Four amorous songs") by Wolf-Ferrari; the "Five Northeastern Songs from the Brazilian folklore" by Ernani Braga; and the often done and charming "Cinco canciones negras" by Montsalvatge". Encores: "Polo" (Falla) and "Canción al árbol del olvido" (Ginastera). Accompanied by an accomplished pianist, Laura Manzano (from La Plata), Nafé showed her professionalism and ability in five languages.
A brief comment on another programme of the Fundación Música de Cámara, offered twice: for their cycle and for the twentieth anniversary of Lodenhaus (the one I saw). It was called "Little works by great Austrian composers" and sung by a group of young singers and pianists with uneven but generally charming results.