The Buenos Aires Philharmonic (the Phil) in the Concert Nº 13 of its series was under Pavel Kogan (son of the great violinist Leonid Kogan), who made his debut in a programme featuring the admirable Lithuanian pianist Muza Rubackyte in her third visit. In the pompous five-minute "Solemn Coronation March" by Tchaikovsky he unleashed tremendous power and precision. Then he accompanied very well the soloist, who gave a magisterial, memorable lesson in two Liszt works: a rarity (the pleasant 11-minute "Fantasy on Beethoven´s ´The Ruins of Athens´") and a standard (Concerto Nº 1). In both she showed not only stunning virtuosity but extremely musical phrasing and self-assurance. Her encore was splendid: of the same composer, "Liebestraum Nº 3".
In the Second Part came the "pièce de résistance" for the conductor: Mussorgsky´s "Pictures from an Exhibition" in the hallowed Ravel orchestration. Although I differ with some details and the playing wasn´t quite impeccable, the version was strong and colorful, showing the mettle of the currently Principal Conductor of the Moscow State Symphony. By the way, I disagree with the policy of bringing over conductors for just one concert, they touch and go just when they´ve had their first contact with the orchestra and the public.
Maximiano Valdés, Chilean, has had a long career though he looks young; for long conductor of the Buffalo Symphony, he is now at the helm of the Asturias Principate Symphony. In Valdés I saw a good baton technique but an excessive soberness, and it showed in such a difficult and long score as Liszt´s important "Faust Symphony", an intricate characterological essay in its three parts (Faust, Margaret, Mephistopheles). Joins were weak and climaxes petered out. And the decision to play only the orchestral movements without the last part for tenor and chorus was surely wrong. I don´t know if this was imposed on the conductor by the lack of a choir. Valdés also did one debut concert and went away.
The session had started with the intense Shostakovich Cello Concerto Nº 1 with the debut of Tatiana Vassilieva, Siberian, born in 1977 and beautiful. The girl can certainly play and gradually warmed up to round off a very professional rendering. A certain lack of tone apparently was due to the acoustics of the fourth row of the stalls completely to the right, for people posted centrally and around row 15 heard her very well. Valdés accompanied well, although there´s more punch in the work than delivered.
One of our best conductors is Carlos Vieu. He led a rather strange programme which contained two concerted pieces for piano plus two symphonies; certainly too long. It started with the charming "Eight Russian folk songs" by Liadov, very well done. Then, a "Concierto breve" by the Argentine Máximo Flügelman, who lives in New York, with the debut of a talented pianist from a country that generally doesn´t provide them: Morocco. He is Marouan Benabdallah and he played with fine technique the 13-minute, three-movement continuous Concerto by Flügelman, in a tonal idiom, hardly individual but well-written. And then, the splendid "Burlesque" by Richard Strauss, the first score in which he displayed his inimitable style; although there were minor smudges, Benabdallah mostly played finely and with the right instincts. His encore: three miniatures by Bartók,very motoric.
The two symphonies were standard: the Nº 38, "Prague", by Mozart, where a bit more transparence wouldn´t have come amiss; and the Nº 8, "Unfinished", by Schubert, sensitively done.
In what seems to me a good idea, some of the conductors of the opera season have also done concerts with the Resident Colón Orchestra ("Estable"). Stefano Ranzani opted for a traditional German-Austrian programme: Mozart´s Overture to "The Marriage of Figaro" and Symphony Nº 40; and Brahms´ Nº 4. Masterpieces, of which Ranzani has orthodox and musical views. Abetted by an Estable on its toes, the concert was enjoyable if uneventful.
Violinist Shlomo Mintz is a respected artist in our midst; he has visited us often. In his recital this year for Nuova Harmonia at the Coliseo he brought along a very talented young Swiss pianist, Béatrice Berrut. As it happened, she was a revelation: professional and firm, her impressive mechanism is complemented by a particular sense of phrasing and trained taste. And in true chamber fashion, she interacted with her partner at all times. They tackled that towering Sonata, Beethoven´s Nº 9, "Kreutzer", with a cohesive, integrated concept that gave us the true spirit of the music as well as the letter. Alas, timbre is an essential quality in a violinist, and in each successive visit Mintz seems to be losing a bit more of what used to be a very beautiful sound; yes, the articulation, the intonation are still there, but the timbre is now sometimes harsh. A pity, for he is a major artist. They also played the expressive Romance by Dvorák (though I prefer it with orchestral robing) and two Saint-Saëns pieces: the agreeable and rarely played Sonata Nº2, and that old warhouse, "Introduction and Rondó capriccioso". Both in this last piece and in the encore, a fabulously difficult potpourri on Rimsky-Korsakov´s "The Golden Cockerel", Mintz was at his best, thus crowning the celebration of his half-century career.