We are having quite a year for instrumental virtuosi; in fact, I´m having a hard time to cover the activity.
Two very different pianists were heard on the same day at the Colón. Last year the then 9-year-old Natasha Binder played Beethoven in the first subscription concert of the Philharmonic, and I was astonished by her attainments at such a tender age. Now the daughter of Karin Lechner is a year older but still a child, and already she showed signs of increasing musical and technical maturity in Grieg´s Concerto. Of course at this stage her outstanding natural talent depends on proper guidance; for that she has her mother and her grandmother Lyl De Raco de Tiempo. Natasha´s fingers are able to encompass the difficult writing, but she also gave it musical sense and shape; minor smudges meant little in the overall accomplishment. Pity that the encore was a very rushed Chopin Waltz (Nº9). She was accompanied by the Orquesta Académica del Instituto Superior de Arte del Teatro Colón, better than it was in 2010 but still far from perfection. The conductor was Francisco Noya, who works in New England and showed himself a correct professional in such varied fare as Ives ("The Unanswered Question"), Stravinsky (Suite Nº 2 for chamber orchestra) and Ravel (Suite from "Ma mère l´oye"), though coordination with Natasha was often dicey.
That very night there was an important soloist with the Buenos Aires Philharmonic: Cyprien Katsaris. Born in Marseilles in 1951, he has had an outstanding career and it was good to have him among us. His interpretation of Beethoven´s Concerto Nº 3 was magisterial in the best sense, clean as a whistle in execution but giving its due to all matters of style. Paradoxically, for his concept was closer to Classicism than to Romanticism, he played (I believe it was a local premiere), the very interesting Liszt cadenzas, which of course inhabit a contrasting sound world. The encore was a surprise: his own improvisations as a homage to Liszt on famous fragments from ballets and operas, flowery, light and virtuosic indeed.
Enrique Diemecke had a brilliant night. He accompanied Katsaris with utmost care and he offered a cross-over Osvaldo Golijov piece ("Last Round", very tango-ish). However, what really mattered was the command and acumen with which he obtained admirable performances from the Phil of two masterpieces: Richard Strauss´ "Death and Transfiguration", and Scriabin´s "Poem of Extasis", with its enormous orchestration (nine horns!), where the trumpet player played with distinction.
One of my candidates for Concert of the Year will surely be the debut at the Colón for the Mozarteum of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen led by violinist Christian Tetzlaff. Not only was the playing of soloist and orchestra of the highest standard, but the programme was marvelous and their comprehension of the idioms involved ideal. Mozart´s Concerto Nº 3 for violin, Schönberg´s "Transfigured Night" in the 1943 string orchestra version, Haydn´s seldom played but very beautiful Symphony Nº80 in D minor and Mendelssohn´s perennial Violin Concerto were a succession of wonders. If the 36-piece orchestra is a perfect chamber outfit, both when Tetzlaff led them or when they were on their own in Haydn, the soloist proved wholly admirable in technique and refined taste. The encore was a sparkling final movement of Beethoven´s First Symphony.
American violinist Joshua Bell is by now a staple of our seasons and always welcome. The flexibility, ease and communicative phrasing he showed in Bruch´s First Concerto are those of a master. His encore was fun: Vieuxtemps´ Variations on "Yankee Doodle". It goes without saying that the executions as such were of the highest rank. Well accompanied by Diemecke and the Phil, the night also offered a strong and convincing reading of Sibelius´ First Symphony, who established him as a great symphonist, and a valuable premiere by an Argentine composer: "Rituales amerindios" by Esteban Benzecry, a triptych successively Aztec, Maya and Inca. Ginastera showed the way, but the imaginative orchestration and the great variety of systems and procedures used show a valuable personality; this score is being promoted by Gustavo Dudamel. Diemecke again astonished by conducting from memory a very complex new score.
A paragraph for the courageous denouncing by a member of the orchestra just before the beginning of the sad situation provoked by Colón Director Pedro Pablo García Caffi, who is bent on firing eight employees of the theatre, seven of them delegates from ATE. Attempted booing by a few was roundly rebuked by full applause.
Sergio Tiempo is Natasha Binder´s uncle. Ravel´s Concerto suits him like a glove; with absolutely stunning ease and nonchalance, he negotiated the fearful hurdles of this fascinating divertimento with a jazzy swing, but he was equally admirable in the dreamy and refined passages, even managing to hold his own when accompanying the English horn melody in the second movement. Accompanied with care by Guillermo Scarabino and the Phil (apart from an awkward high-lying horn bit), it was an interpretation to treasure. The third movement was repeated as an encore.
Scarabino had a good night. He presented with taste and equilibrium one of Gerardo Gandini´s best postmodern scores, "E sarà", in which the composer transformed fragments from the Baroque and the Middle Ages with true refinement and invention. And Beethoven´s Fourth Symphony, even if the first desks weren´t available (and it showed), had a very good and orthodox traversal.
For Buenos Aires Herald