lunes, junio 13, 2011

A bevy of symphonic and chamber music

            The Colón´s Resident Orchestra (Orquesta Estable) was supposed to play under Frédéric Chaslin (debut) the first of five subscription concerts on May 21; the decision of the theatre´s Director Pedro Pablo García Caffi was to eliminate the subscription due to the conflict with the orchestras, but the concert was offered, albeit with its date changed to April 30; the change was due to a rearrangement of the dates for "The Magic Flute". And it presented Chaslin, a fortyish French artist, in the triple quality of conductor, pianist and composer.
            The result was no more than correct. The Orchestra played dutifully but dully, especially in Beethoven´s Concerto Nº 5, "Emperor", where Chaslin conducted from the piano, his back to the public. He showed a good orthodox technique, apart from a few slips, and a reasonable sense of style. As composer, he gave the world premiere of his "Gypsy Dance", to be added to his opera "Wuthering Heights". In 7 minutes he goes, according to the author´s own description, from a Hungarian style to Romanian, Yiddish and jazzy; the piece seems written in 1930 for a Hollywood movie such as Rozsa or Korngold used to compose, but it´s quite pleasant and professional. We´ve certainly heard much better versions of the Fantastic Symphony by Berlioz, but also much worse ones; it was a decent traversal lacking the electricity and controlled wildness the marvelous piece needs.
            Unfortunately, the National Symphony (Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional) is suffering from a different sort of conflict: the Nation´s Culture Secretariat fell many months behind in their payment of rentals of orchestral score materials and Melos (ex Ricordi) put its foot down: or full payment or no scores; the Administration paid almost all ($ 130.000) but about $ 10.000 are still going therough the bureaucracy. But Melos is adamant and still refuses renting until all is paid, which seems to me an extreme position. The result: a cataract of cancellations that is ruining the season.  I hope both sides will come to their senses and fast.
            The concert conducted by Pedro Calderón at the Auditorio de Belgrano on April 29 started with a splendid performance of Beethoven´s "Coriolan" at just the right tempo, not too slow. Alas, this replaced Gilardi´s "Obertura tritemática", due to the above situation. But we have already lost such important things as the premiere of Ives´ Fourth Symphony or the revival of Janácek´s "Taras Bulba". The sombre, beautiful Brahms Rhapsody for contralto, male choir and orchestra, based on Goethe´s "Winter trip to the Harz Mountains", was very well handled by the conductor and the male section of the Coro Polifónico Nacional (Darío Marchese) but Mónica Sardi is more a mezzo than a contralto and lacked deepness for the music.    
            The 55-minute "Manfred Symphony" by Tchaikovsky is one of his most impressive scores, even if too prolix; but so much of the music is deeply moving and tremendously dramatic that it´s certainly a fine companion to another Byron score, "Harold in Italy" by Berlioz. I found Calderón at his very best, not only a master builder but also a deeply involved interpreter that got admirable results from a communicative and fully professional orchestra. I only cavil at the weakness of the organ in the final minutes.
            Nuova Harmonia gave us a successful chamber music concert for the start of its season on April 26 at the Coliseo. Two of the four best works of the combination of string quartet and piano  (piano quintet) were offered: Franck´s and Brahms´ . The other two are Schumann´s and Dvorák´s, and of the latter we had as encore the lovely Scherzo from his quintet. Wonderful music with a master pianist, Paolo Restani, and a fairly good quartet, that of the Milan Scala, where I found the first violin a bit below par and the cello as the one with the most beautiful tone.  The tempi and phrasing were throughout very musical, with Restani a tower of strength.
            In recent years I wasn´t in BA for Easter Week, and so I missed the first three seasons of the meritorious Festival at San Isidro; this time I was available, and happy to encounter their "Camino del Santo". The Artistic Director is pianist José Luis Juri under the auspices of the Cultural  Directress of the San Isidro Municipality, Eleonora Jaureguiberry. All concerts are free.  A total of eight events, of which I selected three. Among those not selected (basically because the whole Festival happened between April 20 and 24) the Mozart Requiem, the Camerata Bariloche, pianist Tomás Alegre and soprano Soledad de la Rosa, all of them valuable. But the three I heard showed the seriousness of the endeavor.
            At the ample hall of good acoustics of  the School San Juan el Precursor, fronting one of the laterals of the Cathedral, the unusual Quartet "La Cofradía del Santo" gave us on April 21 two Brahms masterpieces: his late Trio for clarinet, cello and piano and his First Piano Quartet. Unfortunately Juri, one of our best professionals, was running a high fever and surmounting the recent death of his brother; but the Festival is his creation and he staunchly stood up to the challenge. His touch is normally stronger, but the sense of chamber phrasing and the fine technique were there, as well as the camaraderie with Belgian clarinettist Geert Baeckelandt and our notable Argentine cellist Claudio Baraviera (who lives in Spain) in the Trio, and with Baraviera, Elías Gurevich, violin, and the invited violist Gabriel Falconi in the Quartet. Some too incisive playing from violin and viola and overhard forte high notes on the clarinet were drawbacks, but the result was greater than the sum of the parts.
            On the following day and at the same venue, the "pièce de résistance" was the arduous Bartók Sonata for two pianos and percussion, where Juri and Fernanda Morello did fine work accompanied by three good players from the Colón Orchestra. I didn´t like the arrangement by Gustavo Alfieri of Ginastera´s Suite from "Estancia" for piano and percussion , though it was well played by Morello and Alfieri. There were also pieces by Debussy and Scelsi.
            I have nothing but high praise for the all-Bach recital of French violinist Virginie Robilliard  at that very special venue, the Cathedral. Sonata Nº 1 and the first two Partitas were beautifully played, with fine articulation at all speeds and firm solid sound, as well as fierce intellectual concentration. She played the monumental Chaconne of Partita Nº 2 with the bow of her amateur violinist uncle, who had received it from a French luthier; an anecdote, but a warm one (the uncle was present) in a recital that showed the power of Bachian communication.
For Buenos Aires Herald