Still trying to catch up…Another round of an intense and often interesting concert life. I´ll start with the Colón Resident (Estable) Orchestra. Ira Levin led a curious concert in which all three scores either included organ or were organ-derived. It featured the new Colón instrument, which of course isn´t the noble kind of tube organs but an electronic one, rather good of its kind but always artificial. I dislike them as a family, but that´s all we can have at the Colón. If the new auditorium of the ex central Post Office (Correo) as rumored includes a tube organ, it will be the first time in BA that we will be able to hear orchestral works that include organ in their proper setting.
Levin as orchestrator presented his very professional view of Liszt´s organ original “Fantasy and fuge on the name of BACH”, a splendid 12-minute contrapuntal tour-de-force (premiere). Then, the world premiere of Mario Perusso´s “Drama sin palabras” for organ and orchestra. Prelude, Interlude and Postlude, 20 minutes, an ample orchestra and important participacion of organist Ezequiel Menéndez, an Argentine who is Musical Director of the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn. In a freely atonal style, this is theatrical music without a plot, well-written, with a tendency to exaggerated effects (what we call “tremendista”). It was apparently well-played.
The splendid Saint-Saëns Symphony Nº3 is along with Franck´s Symphony the best of the French School. Unorthodox in form, incorporating an organ in some key passages, with imaginative orchestral features such as a four-hand piano, this is a winner. Ira Levin showed here his impressive command and obtained a very good result from the Colón Orchestra, who after five “Lohengrins” knows him well; Menéndez collaborated as a real pro.
During September the National Symphony had some uneven offerings. The concert led by Mario Perusso wasn´t a success. The Concerto for tuba (world premiere) by Roberto Pintos is very light, crossover, but it allowed Patricio Cosentino (the Orchestra´s tuba soloist) to demostrate that this instrument has a right to center stage if the player knows how to obtain a smooth cantabile in the higher reaches; Cosentino certainly does, and it was a pleasure to appreciate his easy command. However, Richard Strauss´ Suite from “Der Rosenkavalier” (in itself quite inferior to the marvelous opera) showed a disinterested and unstylish conductor and a tacky orchestra.
Emilio Peroni, an Argentine working in Germany (Rostock) chose a tough nut to crack for his rentrée: Brahms´ enormous First Concerto. Although here Perusso was in much firmer ground, it proved too much for the pianist, who certainly has a good technique, but not the personality nor the huge sound for this massive work.
As usual when the National Symphony is led by its principal conductor Pedro Calderón, matters picked up substantially in their execution of the vast Bruckner Symphony Nº 5, certainly his toughest. Specialists also think it one of his very best, and I tend to agree, but there´s no gainsaying that it needs a lot of concentration as well as affinity on the part of the listener. With Calderón´s proverbial sense of form much in evidence (he is a master builder) the orchestra was in a good night, apart from incidental fluffs, and I was happy that we finally heard the Fifth after two cancellations (last year and this season). A complaint: I wrote the programme notes and by mistake they didn´t print it.
An all-Beethoven programme (again without programme notes) was conducted by Carlos Vieu with great acumen. It featured the Mass op.86, 50 minutes against the almost 80 of the Solemnis, and certainly less important, but nevertheless a valuable work. As it is rarely performed, it was my reason to go to this concert. Very good work from the orchestra and the Coro Nacional de Jóvenes (Néstor Zadoff). The soloists were paradoxically best from the lowest-voiced: very good Norberto Marcos (bass baritone), good Maico Chia-I Hsiao (tenor), passable Laura Domínguez (mezzo) and shrill Fabiola Masino (soprano).
Very recently heard from the B.A. Phil, I´d have preferred another symphony than the Fourth, but it was quite well-played and conducted. There was also a good “Egmont” Overture, always trotted out to fill up an orchestral night (it happens again this week at the Phil).
As I intimated, the Solemnis is a masterpiece; in fact, the greatest Mass we have along with Bach´s. Terribly challenging especially for the sopranos, rarely done, it was another demonstration that nothing scares conductor Alejo Pérez. With the forces of the Teatro Argentino (choir and orchestra) trying to give their very best, Pérez led with clarity and fortitude, although without that special aura that we get from the great performances. One soloist seemed to me world-class: soprano Daniela Tabernig, the register sweet and true up to high C. Correct work from the others: mezzo Gabriela Cipriani Zec, tenor Arnaldo Quiroga and bass Hernán Iturralde.
It´s been years since I last heard the Sinfónica Juvenil Libertador San Martín, founded and led for 17 years by Mario Benzecry. I found them in good form at the Midday Concerts of the Mozarteum at the Gran Rex, with agreeable performances of Mussorgsky´s “A Night in the Bald Mountain” as orchestrated by Rimsky-Korsakov and of the First Suite from Grieg´s “Peer Gynt”. The teenager from Tucumán Maximiliano Zelaya Cardoso showed promising possibilities in Bruch´s Concerto Nº 1, though still rather green.