lunes, junio 13, 2011

A rich harvest of interesting concerts

            Before and after a trip to Canada and China, I witnessed numerous worthwhile concerts in our city. I thank my colleagues for filling in and keeping readers informed during the three weeks of my absence. 
            I will start by commending a splendid concert by the National Symphony under Pedro Calderón last Friday, and paradoxically condemning it as well. On the plus side: both orchestra and conductor were at their best in two masterpieces, Alberto Ginastera´s "Variaciones Concertantes" (to my mind his best score) and Anton Bruckner´s Fourth Symphony, "Romantic". What a pleasure to hear such assured playing in solid, wise readings, impeccably built. But there was a down side: for the original programme was wholly devoted to Bruckner´s Fifth Symphony, his most complex work, and for the second consecutive year it was scratched, due to the continuing disagreement between the providers of the orchestral materials (Melos ex Ricordi) and the Nation´s Culture Secretariat (I referred to the problem in an earlier article). It is ruining the year´s programming and I think it is a major problem. (And by the way, I dislike writing programme notes –as I did- that don´t get published).
            The Midday Concerts of the Mozarteum Argentino at the Gran Rex are an established institution that offers quality free music to thousands of people. The concert by the Cuarteto Petrus offered two French scores: the marvelous and well-known Ravel Quartet, and a true rarity, Édouard Lalo´s Quartet in E flat major, Op. 19,  an Argentine premiere in its original version (he would revise it later as Op.45). The Petrus is made up of four players of equal high level: violinists Pablo Saraví and Hernán Briático, violist Silvina Álvarez and cellist Gloria Pankaeva . They are also fine stylists and understand the hues and inflexions of French music. Lalo´s Quartet is no masterpiece but it has its attractive points and was worth making its acquaintance.
            Readers know I am an enthusiast of the Academia Bach de Buenos Aires, and again I enthuse about their first concert of the season, in which the artists under Mario Videla gave us two premieres: Sonata à 4 in F major by Johann Friedrich Fasch, for the rare combination of oboe, violin, horn and thorough-bass, and Johann Sebastian Bach´s Cantata Nº 88, "Siehe, ich will viel Fischer aussenden" ("See, I will send many fishermen"), for soloists (no choir), 2 oboes (oboe and oboe d´amore), 2 horns, strings and thorough-bass. The Fasch  is concise, pleasant Baroque; the Cantata is in two parts and seven pieces, with especially valuable arias for baritone and for tenor and a lovely duet for soprano and countertenor featuring the oboe d´amore. The best soloists were Alejandro Meerapfel (baritone) and Mónica Capra (soprano), countertenor Damián Ramírez was correct and tenor Matías Tomasetto, a bit green. The players were excellent, particularly Andrés Spiller (oboes) and Fernando Chiappero (horn), and Videla was as usual a first-rate Bach connoisseur. Just one objection: too little music (32 minutes), too much talk by Videla (over an hour), even if most of it was useful. 
            A curious cultural initiative called Tandem has brought us French artists and sent Argentine ones to Paris, but the "modus operandi" seems to me quite incorrect: a major French pianist made his debut at the Colón but it was a closed performance by invitation, and the theatre was only half full. Theoretically the City Government was in "tandem" with the French Embassy for the presentation of Bertrand Chamayou, replacing the octogenarian and famous Aldo Ciccolini. Well, the 30-year-old Chamayou proved a first-class talent, with a dazzling technique coupled with great sensitivity. The First Part was given over to Franz Liszt: the arrangement of Mendelssohn´s "In the wings of song", and fragments from "Years of peregrination": three from Switzerland (the charming lightness of "At the edge of a fountain", the terrifying difficulty of "Storm", the brooding ultra-Romantic "Valley of Obermann") and the three pieces called "Venezia e Napoli" (from Italy, of course) ending on a scintillating "Tarantella", played with disarming ease. In the Second Part the artist gave us a deeply considered "Prelude, Chorale and Fugue" by Franck, and two works by Saint-Saëns: the rarely done "Bells of Las Palmas" and the wonderful "Etude in the form of a waltz", a "tour de force" in Chamayou´s hands.  Two Liszt arrangements were the encores: "Widmung" by Schumann and "The Maiden´s Wish" by Chopin.
            It is a rare thing to hear cello duets: such was the treat offered at the Hungarian Embassy for an invited audience by a father-son team: Csaba and Zoltan Onczay (the father played Dvorák´s Concerto at the recent Ushuaia Festival). They also played for the general public and with a different programme for Ars Hungarica. Both are accomplished, though with a plus of firmness and style in the case of the father. A very interesting Sonata by the unknown Jean Barrière (1707-47) was followed by a Vivaldi Sonata, in this case with harpsichordist Sylvia Leidemann, who then played a piece from the Chiquitos (Bolivia) repertoire. A rather quirky Suite Op.l6 by David Popper preceded an arrangement by Csaba Onczay of Paganini´s Variations on a theme by Rossini (from "Mosè"), very difficult.
            There are each week in Buenos Aires a myriad of small concerts in extremely varied venues and most aren´t reviewed, but whenever I  visit some of them,  I often get much pleasure.
For Buenos Aires Herald