The Buenos Aires Philharmonic went on with its season at the Colón. Concert Nº 16 had as conductor Ira Levin instead of the Phil´s Principal Conductor, Enrique Arturo Diemecke, originally announced. Rachmaninov was the star, with his Second Piano Concerto and Second Symphony, two masterpieces. Pianist Vladimir Feltsman has visited us before; his comeback was very welcome, for this Muscovite born in 1952 is at the peak of his quite considerable powers. Poised, very professional and sensitive, his playing was a model of technique applied with style. A pity that Levin chose to accompany in too heavy a manner, altering the necessary equilibrium. But he came into his own in the ample, complex symphony, maintaining control and intensity throughout the 50 minutes packed with interesting incident. The players were fully up to par.
José Miguel Rodilla is Spanish and looks fortyish; his biography shows a varied career in many B-class orchestras of the world. His debut showed a good command of the music but little finesse. The programme was rather light. It began with an early work of Armenian influence by our Alicia Terzian: "Three pieces for strings"; it sounded under-rehearsed with poor intonation, though the modal harmonies may have given the players some difficulty. The charming and very Gallic Flute Concerto by Jacques Ibert was brilliantly rendered by Claudio Barile and acceptably accompanied. The Second Part was given over to the five pieces from "Iberia" by Albéniz that were orchestrated by Fernández Arbós; a pity that another piece, "Polo", in the orchestration by Carlos Suriñach, wasn´t played, though the concert was quite short (the "Polo" had been announced, and was commented by Claudia Guzmán in her programme notes). Rodilla was more comfortable in this style, but both transparency and charm eluded him (I remember a splendid version of "Triana" by Mehta). Some bits were very strident, even if the fault is partially the orchestrator´s.
Concert Nº 18 had a long programme with a weak First Part and an important Second. I´ve heard veteran Argentine pianist Luis Ascot in much better shape in the past; although he knows the style of Liszt´s Second Concerto very well, his technical level was shaky; also, there were many moments of disagreement with the orchestra. But the enormous and transcendent Mahler Ninth showed Diemecke and the Phil at their best. Here there was a deep comprehension of the message –a resigned sublimation in the composer´s way to the extinction of life. Again the fantastic memory and command of the conductor was in evidence, but also that curious dichotomy that makes him both an inspired leader of metaphysical contents and a clownish celebrator of his contact with the audiences. The symphony was a moving experience.
Now comes a chapter dedicated to recitals by pianists. Festivales Musicales ended its season with the local debut of the 38-year-old Ukrainian Valentina Lisitsa. By the end of the First Part, all-Chopin, I had no doubt about the marvelous dexterity of the artist, both in the fast bits of the Fantasy op.49 and in the immense challenge of the 12 Etudes op.25, but unfortunately there was much evidence of a mannered approach that meant unwanted stops and goes and quirky changes in rhythm as well as sleek rather than meaningful phrasing. But the Second Part, all-Liszt, would change matters. I can cavil at the quality of a mere display piece like the "Fantastic Rondo on a Spanish theme, El Contrabandista" (a melody by Manuel García, father of la Malibran), but there´s much imagination in the paraphrase on Verdi´s "Aida" ("Sacred Dance and Final Duet"), and both the Second Ballad (based on the legend of Hero and Leander) and the terrifically difficult piano solo version of the "Totentanz" ("Dance of Death) are pieces of real content and absolutely ground-breaking challenges of mechanism. I don´t hope to hear them played better than by Lisitsa, who was simply stunning in speed, accuracy, weight and sensibility. In Liszt she is a great pianist, for there her style and technique mingle ideally. The encores were ideal: the Schubert-Liszt "Ave Maria" and Liszt´s Hungarian Rhapsody Nº 12. A great pianistic discovery at the Colón.
Another special Colón night was called "Family secrets" and put on stage the whole piano-playing family made up of half-brothers Sergio Tiempo and Karin Lechner, their mother Lyl (De Raco de) Tiempo and Karin´s 11-year-old daughter Natasha Binder. Again the First Part, played by Sergio, wasn´t convincing in style, although the pianistic means were all there: Liszt´s three "Petrarch Sonnets" take more easily to Sergio´s very free (to the point of distortion) version of what is written, but his mixture of 12 Chopin Etudes from op.10 and 25 was disconcerting: violent accents, too speedy, unmarked arpeggios, clangorous chords; Chopin can take some of these characteristics in some Etudes but it ruins others.
However, the Second Part compensated and was at times moving. Six of Schumann´s "Scenes from Childhood" were charmingly played by Natasha, a true talent, and were followed by two delicious renderings of Brahms Waltzes by mother and daughter in four-hand piano. Then, a rarity, an expressive Rachmaninov Romance for six hands, by Karin, Natasha and Sergio. Splendid playing by Sergio and Karin in Ravel´s virtuosic "La Valse". And all the family in Bach´s Four-clavier Concerto based on Vivaldi´s original for four violins: a true celebration of family love and music.
For Buenos Aires Herald