lunes, noviembre 22, 2010

An eclectic symphonic panorama


            The pleasure of a symphonic concert can be ruined by bad programming, even if the players and the conductor are first-rate. This lamentable circumstance happened with the joint debut of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and Myung-Whun Chung for the Mozarteum at the Colón. As usual with this institution, they offer two subscription series;  sometimes the artists present two different programmes but on this occasion they repeated the same one. And this was grievous for those that in the same series had heard the Beethoven Fifth Symphony by Barenboim and his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, for the same overplayed score was done by the French outfit. This just isn´t done, and it is a breach of conduct I didn´t expect from the venerable Mozarteum.  If maestro Chung refused to modify it I don´t know, but what happened was wrong.
            Sergio Tiempo is an admirable pianist and this is a Chopin year, so there was justification for programming his First Concerto. But let´s face it, his orchestrations are boring and spending 35 minutes of a debut programme of a first-rate orchestra in this material is a waste.  Add to this that a French orchestra  played nary a minute of French music and that all the scores were written between 1807 and 1830,  from an orchestra famous for its interpretations of Twentieth-Century music, and we have a model of botched programming.
            This was the bad side, but there was indeed a good one: the interpretations were of high quality. Maestro Chung, whom I appreciated conducting beautifully Verdi´s "Simone Boccanegra" at the Paris Bastille, is very talented and charismatic. His Beethoven Fifth was tremendously energetic and purposeful, and he got wonderful playing: this Radio Orchestra, whom  I first heard at the Auditorium of Radio France, is one of the best of its kind in Europe, and gave us a Germanic sound of great vitality. About Chung, I would have wanted from him a bit of expansion and air now and then, such as Barenboim gave us. The concert had started with an excellent interpretation of Weber´s fascinating Overture to "Der Freischütz", in a detailed and dramatic reading. The encore was –once again!- Brahms´ Hungarian Dance Nº 1.
            About Tiempo, he is a true virtuoso, of fantastic dexterity, and he is also capable of beautiful, tender phrasing in the "cantabile" passages. I miss now and then the sense of repose Rubinstein gave this music, for quicksilver charm is all very well, but the music has at times a darker strain that wasn´t revealed by Tiempo. As sheer playing, however, it was stunning. The accompaniment was rather superficial in the hands of Chung.
            This seems to be my complaining day about the Mozarteum, an institution I generally praise vehemently. I wanted to see the Zurich Youth Symphony´s debut at the Midday Concerts at the Gran Rex, but terrible traffic made me arrive late. On the programme were Dvorák´s "Carnival" Overture and Tchaikovsky´s Fifth. I was certainly in time to hear the symphony but I was barred from entering: now access is denied vigorously by security guards after exactly 1 p.m. I can´t agree: between scores there´s applause and everywhere access is permitted. Due to this unacceptable policy I had to walk away. But fortunately the Orchestra played again the following Saturday, closing the 42nd International Festival "Encuentros", at the Facultad de Derecho´s main hall.
            Youth orchestras are abundant in Europe and generally quite good. The Zurich organism has 70 members of ages between 13 and 24; it exists since 1987 and Massimiliano Matesic is their conductor since 2000. The Florentine maestro, born in 1969, is well-trained and dynamic. His views on the Dvorák overture and the Tchaikovsky symphony were quite orthodox and acceptable, and most of the playing was good. Even with some blemishes the feeling of freshness communicates. The concert also included Alicia Terzian´s 1955 Violin Concerto, the talented product of a 2l-year-old, nicely played by Rafael Gintoli.
            There´s a sorry tale about the Orquesta Académica del Teatro Colón. The existing one under Carlos Calleja was arbitrarily suspended by the Colón Director Pedro Pablo García Caffi last year, and now survives with a new name: Orquesta Académica de Buenos Aires. García Caffi gave instructions to the Superior Institute of Art to form a new one, also called Orquesta Académica del Teatro Colón . But in its presentation under Arturo Diemecke in an afternoon performance, it turned out to be a chamber outfit of 36 players. I found them rather green and far from the other orchestra´s quality as they played Gounod (winds), Grieg (strings) and Respighi (both groups).  On the other hand, Calleja undertook a mighty challenge programming Mahler´s First Symphony at AMIJAI and came out unscathed, which is high praise. Of course I´ve heard better performances, but this one was ardent, enthusiastic and intense; there were accidents, but they mattered little.
            Our National Symphony keeps up its high standards under Pedro Calderón. At the Auditorio de Belgrano, they offered a difficult First Part, with Sibelius´ elusive and fascinating "Tapiola", and Roberto Caamaño´s "Magnificat", one of the major scores of this talented  Argentine composer, with the accurate collaboration of the Coro Polifónico Nacional (Roberto Luvini). Our veteran pianist Bruno Gelber presented a magisterial interpretation of Chopin´s Concerto Nº 1 which showed the direct line of communication to Hummel and Beethoven. Calderón managed to give interest and point to the accompaniment.
For Buenos Aires Herald