One of the steadiest and most reliable purveyors of fine Baroque vocal music is the Bach Academy, “daughter” of Festivales Musicales. Under the always enthusiastic and knowledgeable leadership of Mario Videla, we go to the Central Methodist Church assured of hearing beautiful music almost always well-played and-sung.
Witness the concert in which we heard Pergolesi´s Stabat Mater but in Bach´s version (premiere) as “Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden” (“Redeem, Highest, my sins”). It is divided in ten versicles and it abandons the Virgin´s lament for Jesus by an adaptation of Psalm 51. It has the BWV number 1083 and got a modern edition only in 1980. An extraordinary transformation into German Baroque of a jewel of Neapolitan music, the music is divided, as the original, into duos or solos. Beautiful singing by soprano Mónica Capra, and just a notch below, by countertenor Martín Oro. The psalm was preceded by the Concerto in G for flute, two violins and continuo, doubtfully attributed to Pergolesi, charming and accomplished music, played with those same attributes by Claudio Barile. The String Soloists of the Bach Academy and Videla in organ accompanied splendidly both scores.
We owe the Bach Academy an inordinate number of premieres of Bach´s about 200 extant sacred cantatas. Still another happy circumstance was to hear Cantata Nº 114, “Ach, lieben Christen, seid getrost” (“Ah, dear Christians, be consoled”), for three vocal soloists, flute, two oboes, strings and continuo. A splendid fast and rhythmic chorus sets things going; then, a long tenor aria with flute obligato, an expressive baritone recitative and a final chorale only for sopranos and continuo. Before the cantata we heard two other premieres: a very agreeable and concise Concerto in F for oboe, strings and continuo by Christoph Graupner (1683-2760), the man who brought Bach to Leipzig; and a curious “Introduction to the predications of Catechism”, Fk/6, by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, for chorus, strings and continuo. Very good playing by oboist Andrés Spiller and the Soloists of the Bach Academy, nice singing by the Grupo de Canto Coral under Néstor Andrenacci, and good vocal soloists: Damián Ramírez, countertenor; Matías Tomasetto, tenor; and Norberto Marcos, baritone.
The Grupo Vocal de Difusión under Mariano Moruja is certainly one of the best and most studious chamber choirs we have. They offered at the CETC (the Colón´s Center for Experimentation) an important programme featuring the seven-part “Le cantique des cantiques”, very expressive pieces by Daniel-Lesur (1908-2002) on the Song of Songs, and then representative contemporary scores by Jaakko Mäntyjärvi (“Canticum calamitatis maritimae”) (Finland, 1963), “Nachklänge” (“Echoes”) by Robert Heppener (Holland, 1925) and Eric Whitacre´s “When David heard…” (USA, 1970). The Finnish piece is a lament on the sinking of the Estonia (1994), “Echoes” divides the choir into four groups in different places giving a quadraphonic hearing, and Whitacre´s work is also a lament, of David over Absalom. Fine voices, very disciplined singing and a concentrated director gave their full due to these scores.
A Swiss vocal quartet with piano, La Passeggiata, who had already sung for Alicia Terzian´s Festival Encuentros de Música Contemporánea, gave a pleasant recital at the auditorium of the National Library. The chosen music was light: several Swiss songs by Carlo Hemmerling, René Falquet and Jean-François Monot were followed by the Gypsy Songs by Brahms and the Four Slovak Popular Songs by Bartók. Although the voices aren´t especially good, they sing together with fine adjustment and taste and are well accompanied by pianist Claudine Siffert.
John Rutter (1945) has had success in England with his tonal, almost crossover music. A good example is his 1990 Magnificat, hardly sacral but certainly easy on the ear. It must be fun to sing although it leaves no spiritual trace. Lasting only 35 minutes, the programme was surely too short. It happened at AMIJAI and was very agreeably sung by the Grupo Coral Divertimento (a big 96-voice amateur choir) under Néstor Zadoff and correctly accompanied by a 33-player orchestra. Pity that the soprano soloist (Patricia Douce) was weak.
Johannes Brahms´ “A German Requiem” is one of the supreme masterpieces and I am always freshly moved by any half-decent performance. The one by the Orquesta Académica de Buenos Aires and the Coro Lagun Onak under Carlos Calleja was more than that: it was solid and musicianly. It had an admirable baritone (Norberto Marcos) and a good soprano (Ana Moraitis) and was only marred by the excessive reverberation of the Salón de Actos de la Facultad de Derecho UBA.
The fine choral cycle that takes place every first Sunday of the season at the Central Methodist Church had a high point with the Conjunto Musica Prohibita under Pablo Banchi, a severe choir of men´s voices. They sang an extremely instructive and beautiful programme called “The masters of Venice from Willaert to Monteverdi”, roughly 1550-1630, with the sort of dedicated concentration one can only respect.
Bach´s Cantata Nº 55 “Ich armer Mensch, ich Sündenknecht” (“Me, poor man, slave of sin”) has a typically pietist text which I don´t enjoy, but the music is expressive Baroque at its best. Dutch tenor Sebastian Brouwer did well this difficult music. The Coro Trilce under Andrenacci only sang the final Chorale. We also had two Religious Arias by Georg Melchior Hoffmann (1679-1715), rather interesting, and Wilhelm Friedemann Bach´s dramatic Adagio and Fugue in D minor. Fine playing from the Soloists of the Bach Academy under Videla.