martes, diciembre 27, 2011
domingo, diciembre 18, 2011
The last concert of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic had an unusual programme, for the original one was changed. The description “colossi of rhythm” was appropriate to the combination of Stravinsky´s “Les Noces” and Orff´s “Carmina Burana”, but the former was scrapped and instead we had a First Part combining a string quartet first with the orchestral strings (in the splendid Elgar “Introduction and allegro”) and then with the full orchestra in the premiere of Ludwig Spohr´s Concerto for string quartet and orchestra in A minor, Op. 131. The Petrus Quartet didn´t play in their usual topological disposition but were in a line in front of the orchestra on the left. I felt that the orchestra conducted by Enrique Arturo Diemecke didn´t cohere with the quartet and the result lacked richness in Elgar and enough precision in Spohr. The Quartet played well but not quite at its best. Spohr is an agreeable composer mixing Classicism and Romanticism.
“Carmina Burana” is by now a hackneyed, constant presence in our seasons. Diemecke has a strong rhythmic sense and did it quite well, with the firm assistance of the Phil and excellent work from the Colón Choir under Peter Burian and the Colón Children´s Choir under César Bustamante. Laura Rizzo sang resplendently, Luis Gaeta sounded veteran in both senses, for his easy professionalism solved the problems but the voice isn´t fresh, and Damián Ramírez was too mannered in his countertenor rendition of the poor swan singing as he is roasted.
La Bella Música is an institution led by Patricia Pouchulu that has presented several series of concerts throughout the last decade but had as its big event a choral-symphonic concert at the end of the year. However, in recent years Pouchuku has been studying conducting, and she chose to be this season at the helm of an orchestral concert at the Avenida. It was a pleasant occasion. Vivaldi´s “The Four Seasons” was done with a rather large string group (24) and four different soloists, all of them concertini of our orchestras. They didn´t attempt to play as Baroque specialists (such as Manfredo Kraemer) but they added ornaments in the right places and played with sprung rhythms and accuracy. Freddy Varela Montero (from the Colón´s Resident Orchestra) was the mainstay of “Spring”; Luis Roggero (National Symphony) did “Summer” brilliantly; Nicolás Favero (La Plata´s Argentino) dealt with “Autumn”; and Pablo Saraví (B. A. Phil) solved with bravura the picturesque intricacies of “Winter”. Pouchulu accompanied tastefully.
I have a soft spot for Beethoven´s Sixth Symphony (“Pastoral”) and I was agreeably surprised by an orthodox, careful reading that let us appreciate the calm beauties of most of the music but gave its due to the Storm. The ad-hoc Orquesta sinfónica de La Bella Música, 49-strong, had Grace Medina as concertino and many prominent players.
The prestigious Pilar Golf concert series is certainly the best of Greater Buenos Aires; it has a good hall in a beautiful building and a faithful audience coming from the abundant country clubs of that region. Although the programming tends to have too much crossover nowadays, there´s still some interesting concerts. This year I was sorry to miss the combination of soprano Verónica Cangemi and the Orquesta Barroca Argentina, both at Pilar and the Colón; unfortunately their concert at La Plata (I had that date reserved) was cancelled. But I enjoyed a rather strange recital fusing the voice of mezzosoprano Virginia Correa Dupuy and the exquisite harp playing of Lucrecia Jancsa. Indeed there isn´t much repertoire for this texture and this meant some special arrangements as well as harp solos. It was a pleasure to meet some unknown Britten: “Evening”, “Morning” and “Night”, from Ronald Duncan´s “This way to the tomb” (1945). After Fauré´s harp Impromptu, Ravel´s “Greek popular songs” sounded very nicely with harp instead of piano, and Correa Dupuy and Jancsa were exquisite.
The Second Part started with Manuel de Falla´s “Soneto a Córdoba” (Góngora) and Guridi´s harp piece “El viejo zortzico”. Then, the well-written “Dos canciones provincianas” by the Argentine composer Ernesto Mastronardi. Afterwards, two arrangements on Villalobos: “Bachianas brasileiras Nº 5” (only the Cantilena, where the harp doesn´t make me forget the cello octet of the original) and “Melodía sentimental”. Finally, four arrangements by Marta Lambertini on Paraguayan pieces and Sosa Cordero´s “Anahí”; Lambertini´s refined versions are interesting; Correa Dupuy, normally so stalwart, faltered precisely in “Anahí”. The lovely encore was Ponce´s “Estrellita”.
The final concert, as usual in Pilar Golf, presented the Camerata Bariloche. For some reason, the leader wasn´t Freddy Varela Montero, but on this occasion the Albanian violinist (with Argentine residence) Demir Lulja (member of the National Symphony). After a nice version of Corelli´s Concerto grosso Op.6 Nº 8, “for Christmas”, a beautiful interpretation of J.S.Bach´s charming Nuptial Cantata, BWV 202, “Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten”, with perfect oboe solos by Andrés Spiller and the fresh voice of Soledad de la Rosa. The arrangement by Camillo Sivori of Bottesini´s Grand Concertante Duet for violin, bass and string orchestra (the original is for two basses) was well done by Lulja and bassist Oscar Carnero, whose part is the devil to play (extremely high for a bass). The very musical and precise playing of Dvorák´s charming Serenade Op.22 ended the concert, followed by fine catering, fireworks and dancing, as is traditional in their final nights of the season.
lunes, diciembre 12, 2011
domingo, diciembre 04, 2011
For fifteen years Martín Bauer has been leading the Cycles of Contemporary Music of the Teatro San Martín. During part of that time he has also been at the helm (in that case in collaboration with Diana Theocharidis) of the Colón´s CETC. And when Marcelo Lombardero took the post of Artistic Director of the Teatro Argentino he created the TACEC naming Bauer as its head. So Bauer´s taste has had vast influence in the formation of a generation. Alas -and I stress that I tread dangerous and controversial ground- I feel that his choices have very often been wrongly oriented and I do hope that someone with ampler and more central ideas should take over these tasks. For his exaggerated concentration on certain pet composers such as Cage, Feldman and Sciarrino and on experiments of doubtful value have given a distorted and clique-ridden image of contemporary music.
Also, “contemporary” isn´t the right tag of what these concerts should be; I would propose for them (and for the CETC and TACEC) variants of titles such as “XX-XXI music”. For the object should be to give an authentic panorama of music of both centuries in every style. That´s what Gandini used to do, and I find his orientation the right one.
In what is surely an absurd decision, Pedro Pablo García Caffi, the Colón´s Director, is basing a new venture called “Colón contemporáneo” in a mere redundancy of Bauer´s Cycles. It would be a good thing if it brought -independently of the San Martín- new music worth knowing. But now I´ve said all this, I will have to eat my words concerning one very special concert dedicated to Edgar Varèse, true avantgarde indeed and a signal service to the information of music lovers, as the start of Bauer´s cycle and parting shot (this year, the only one) of the Colón Contemporáneo. I am happy to say that I find this project a fantastic success, a case where both Bauer and García Caffi are completely right.
For Varèse, as has been belatedly recognised, is the purest avantgarde of the Twenties and Thirties. His music was either ignored or savagely attacked, but he did have such a champion as Leopold Stokowski, and with good reason, for he was the pioneer of a new concept: without quite abandoning the traditional parameters of rhythm, melody and harmony, his stress was on pure sound, a precursor of what the Polish School would do after World War II. His ideas on texture are still amazing and new eighty years later; moreover, they are exciting and convincing.
The concert was wrongly billed as the integral Varèse; he wrote very little, for the general rejection forced him into a silence of many decades, but several pieces weren´t in this programme. A First Part of chamber music was followed by two big orchestral pieces: “Arcana” (1925-7) and “Amériques” (1922); I have never before heard them in concert and they may be premieres. The First Part started with the 4-minute “Hyperprism” and then “Ionisation”, well-known here, not quite the first score for percussion but certainly the first important one. Then, “Octandre” (1923) and “Intégrales” (1923-5) are splendid and intricate examples of chamber music (also known here). The two great orchestral pieces were overwhelming in their novelty and richness, especially “Arcana”.
This “tour de force” wouldn´t have been possible without the presence of Alejo Pérez, probably the only local conductor capable of solving the immense problems present in these pieces. He got admirable performances out of the Uruguayan Ensemble Perceum (percussion), fifteen Argentine chamber players and the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, all playing with fierce concentration. I was happy that a big audience gave them all a resounding success.
But afterwards, with rare exceptions, the Cycle fell (as it has in former years) into arid nihilism. I skipped many of the concerts simply because I knew what to expect and didn´t feel like exposing myself to a masochism session. Just for the record, I mention the visit of German creator Peter Ablinger, six composers played by the Ensemble Lucilin (Luxemburg), an experimental opera by Carola Bauckholt (“A keen ear”), percussion pieces by James Tenney with Alexandre Babel, again percussion (including Cage, Gubaidulina and Xenakis) by the famous Robin Schulkowsky, the Prometheus Quartet in Fedele, Reich and Ghedini, and with Carolin Widmann the Schönberg “Transfigured Night”(I count five players but this is a sextet) –Widmann also played violin solo scores-, Lionel Marchetti in “Electroacoustic improvisation around Varèse”, “Homage to Christian Wolff” (USA composer of the Cage school) and Satie´s “Vexations” (a 2-minute piece written in 1893 played 840 times according to the wish of this proto-Dada composer).
I was sorry to miss two concerts, one with valid Argentine composers (Tauriello, Gandini, Lambertini, Kröpfl, Viera), the other a chamber opera by Marcelo Toledo, “La selva interior”, on the writer Horacio Quiroga´s dying last minutes. I will leave Salvatore Sciarrino´s chamber opera “Luci mie traditrici” for a further article, and close this one with a reference to a debilitating experience, symbol of what I call “fake avantgarde”: the “Piano and String Quartet” by Morton Feldman. Its exact description: 80 minutes made up of slow piano arpeggios answered exasperatingly by slow string chords. Perfect boredom in music for me, “a masterpiece” for at least one colleague…The players seemed expert (pianist Emanuele Torquati and the Prometheus Quartet).
miércoles, noviembre 30, 2011
sábado, noviembre 19, 2011
This is a coupling of reviews on operetta and opera for children. I start with Juventus Lyrica´s final offering, a welcome vindication of the greatest of all operettas, Johann Strauss Junior´s “Die Fledermaus” (“The Bat”), in its original German. The institution had done it years ago with such poor results that I remember it as their all-time fiasco. This time the result was honorable, though scarcely ideal.
Mind you, operetta in German is for Argentines quite as difficult as a zarzuela is for Germans. For, along with other genres as zarzuela and opéra-comique, it has the added problem of spoken sections and it is notoriously more difficult to be idiomatic speaking than singing. It certainly showed on this occasion, and although they all tried hard, it wasn´t idiomatic enough, it sounded phonetically learnt in most instances. But I certainly prefer that to a bilingual version, with sung parts in German and spoken bits in Spanish.
As producer Ana D´Anna showed last year in “The Merry Widow” that she has a knack for the genre, and although this “Fledermaus” wasn´t as successful, it was certainly pleasant. There was somewhat more parody than needed, for this is in fact a refined comedy, but especially in Laura Penchi´s assumption of Adele and Eernesto Bauer´s of Dr. Falke, the result was communicative fun. They both sang quite well, in addition.
Chilean soprano Macarena Valenzuela is beautiful and moves with elegance, though not with natural comicality. And she managed the difficult Czardas with musical accuracy. Mariano Spagnolo sang Eisenstein with metallic forthrightness and too robust physique. As Alfred is supposed to be an Italian tenor, accent didn´t matter in Sebastián Russo´s performance; it was liberally sprinkled with snatches of arias introduced by D´Anna and probably conductor Carlos Calleja; his acting and singing are a bit green yet but promising. Prince Orlofsky´s trouser role was well taken by mezzo Griselda Adano with appropriate spleen. Frank, the jail director, was convincingly done by Fernando Álvar Núñez. Norberto Lara was a good singer-comedian as Dr. Blind, Carlos Kaspar was quite funny in the spoken part of Frosch, the jailer, and Claudia Montagna was a charming Ida.
The 34-strong Choir sang agreeably under Miguel Pesce and made their moves with enthusiasm. D´Anna had as stage designer Daniel Feijóo, whose structures were less attractive than expected, lacking airiness and sheer beauty, though functional enough. María Jaunarena´s costumes were mostly handsome and varied. The lighting by D´Anna and Fernando Micucci was especially good in the jail scene.
D´Anna followed tradition by adding an ad-hoc Divertissement in the Second Act. It started with a Johann Strauss Junior polca in a rather charmless choreography by Igor Gopkalo with a protagonist girl and four men escorting her. Then, three singers accompanied by Susana Cardonnet on the piano: octogenarian Gui Gallardo sang Gounod´s Mephisto´s Serenade from “Faust” with little voice and lots of style; tenor Darío Schmunck made a wise choice, the lovely “Ach so fromm” from Flotow´s “Martha”, done with nice lyricism; and soprano Soledad de la Rosa opted curiously for an old tango, “Nostalgia” by Cobián and Cadícamo, done with musicality as a “tango-canción”.
Calleja conducted his Orquesta Académica de Buenos Aires and the result was less good than last year´s “The Merry Widow”; Viennese character was lacking, as well as some technical polish, though acceptable in the whole.
July 1922. The famous puppet company of Vittorio Podrecca presented here Respighi´s opera “La bella addormentata nel bosco”. In 1933 the composer revised it and called the new score “La bella dormente nel bosco”. The 1922 version is lost, so there´s no way to compare it. Written for a chamber orchestra (in this case, 21 players) and intended for children, the Ensamble Lírico Orquestal premiered the 1933 work, on a libretto by Gian Bistolfi, in a trial performance last year at the Roma (Avellaneda). This year the ELO gave a whole run of performances at the Teatro del Globo of our Capital; only the first performance was in Italian, all others (including the one I saw) in an uncredited Spanish translation. Gustavo Codina was the conductor, and the stage production was done by his wife, Cecilia Layseca (who also sang beautifully as the Blue Fairy), with colourful scenery by Atilio de Laforé, Eliana Aramando and Adriana Torossián, lighting by Ernesto Bechara, charming costumes by Mariela Daga and simple choreography by Mariel Weselowski.
The piece is very worth knowing, done by an eclectic master composer with the right touch to communicate with children. The music follows the modified Perrault tale and I was particularly interested by one of the characters, the wicked Spindle that pricks the Princess and sends her into the long sleep. The libretto spans the centuries and thus we meet a “Mr. Dollar”.
Layseca´s production was fluid and reasonably professional, keeping the natural touch that attracts children. Codina got good playing from his orchestra and acceptable results from an amateur choir. Of the singers I liked (apart Layseca), Christian Casaccio as the Prince, María José Valerio (Spindle), Alicia Alduncín (Old Woman), Leonardo Menna (Woodcutter), Elena Deanna (Nightingale and Lilac Fairy), Enrique Borlenghi( the sad King), Sebastián Russo (Buffoon) and found poor Rocío Cereceda (The Princess) and Milagros Seijó (Cuckoo, Rose Fairy). Others were in the picture: Andrea González Cortiana (Duchess), Ariel Suárez (Mr. Dollar), Alfredo González Reig (Ambassador), Karen Paz (Queen). The dancing was very basic.
miércoles, noviembre 16, 2011
martes, noviembre 15, 2011
jueves, noviembre 03, 2011
lunes, octubre 24, 2011
domingo, octubre 16, 2011
The musical season is offering numerous oportunities for good and varied music. This is a survey of the Colón orchestras plus a small chamber addendum.