The last concert of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic had an unusual programme, for the original one was changed. The description “colossi of rhythm” was appropriate to the combination of Stravinsky´s “Les Noces” and Orff´s “Carmina Burana”, but the former was scrapped and instead we had a First Part combining a string quartet first with the orchestral strings (in the splendid Elgar “Introduction and allegro”) and then with the full orchestra in the premiere of Ludwig Spohr´s Concerto for string quartet and orchestra in A minor, Op. 131. The Petrus Quartet didn´t play in their usual topological disposition but were in a line in front of the orchestra on the left. I felt that the orchestra conducted by Enrique Arturo Diemecke didn´t cohere with the quartet and the result lacked richness in Elgar and enough precision in Spohr. The Quartet played well but not quite at its best. Spohr is an agreeable composer mixing Classicism and Romanticism.
“Carmina Burana” is by now a hackneyed, constant presence in our seasons. Diemecke has a strong rhythmic sense and did it quite well, with the firm assistance of the Phil and excellent work from the Colón Choir under Peter Burian and the Colón Children´s Choir under César Bustamante. Laura Rizzo sang resplendently, Luis Gaeta sounded veteran in both senses, for his easy professionalism solved the problems but the voice isn´t fresh, and Damián Ramírez was too mannered in his countertenor rendition of the poor swan singing as he is roasted.
La Bella Música is an institution led by Patricia Pouchulu that has presented several series of concerts throughout the last decade but had as its big event a choral-symphonic concert at the end of the year. However, in recent years Pouchuku has been studying conducting, and she chose to be this season at the helm of an orchestral concert at the Avenida. It was a pleasant occasion. Vivaldi´s “The Four Seasons” was done with a rather large string group (24) and four different soloists, all of them concertini of our orchestras. They didn´t attempt to play as Baroque specialists (such as Manfredo Kraemer) but they added ornaments in the right places and played with sprung rhythms and accuracy. Freddy Varela Montero (from the Colón´s Resident Orchestra) was the mainstay of “Spring”; Luis Roggero (National Symphony) did “Summer” brilliantly; Nicolás Favero (La Plata´s Argentino) dealt with “Autumn”; and Pablo Saraví (B. A. Phil) solved with bravura the picturesque intricacies of “Winter”. Pouchulu accompanied tastefully.
I have a soft spot for Beethoven´s Sixth Symphony (“Pastoral”) and I was agreeably surprised by an orthodox, careful reading that let us appreciate the calm beauties of most of the music but gave its due to the Storm. The ad-hoc Orquesta sinfónica de La Bella Música, 49-strong, had Grace Medina as concertino and many prominent players.
The prestigious Pilar Golf concert series is certainly the best of Greater Buenos Aires; it has a good hall in a beautiful building and a faithful audience coming from the abundant country clubs of that region. Although the programming tends to have too much crossover nowadays, there´s still some interesting concerts. This year I was sorry to miss the combination of soprano Verónica Cangemi and the Orquesta Barroca Argentina, both at Pilar and the Colón; unfortunately their concert at La Plata (I had that date reserved) was cancelled. But I enjoyed a rather strange recital fusing the voice of mezzosoprano Virginia Correa Dupuy and the exquisite harp playing of Lucrecia Jancsa. Indeed there isn´t much repertoire for this texture and this meant some special arrangements as well as harp solos. It was a pleasure to meet some unknown Britten: “Evening”, “Morning” and “Night”, from Ronald Duncan´s “This way to the tomb” (1945). After Fauré´s harp Impromptu, Ravel´s “Greek popular songs” sounded very nicely with harp instead of piano, and Correa Dupuy and Jancsa were exquisite.
The Second Part started with Manuel de Falla´s “Soneto a Córdoba” (Góngora) and Guridi´s harp piece “El viejo zortzico”. Then, the well-written “Dos canciones provincianas” by the Argentine composer Ernesto Mastronardi. Afterwards, two arrangements on Villalobos: “Bachianas brasileiras Nº 5” (only the Cantilena, where the harp doesn´t make me forget the cello octet of the original) and “Melodía sentimental”. Finally, four arrangements by Marta Lambertini on Paraguayan pieces and Sosa Cordero´s “Anahí”; Lambertini´s refined versions are interesting; Correa Dupuy, normally so stalwart, faltered precisely in “Anahí”. The lovely encore was Ponce´s “Estrellita”.
The final concert, as usual in Pilar Golf, presented the Camerata Bariloche. For some reason, the leader wasn´t Freddy Varela Montero, but on this occasion the Albanian violinist (with Argentine residence) Demir Lulja (member of the National Symphony). After a nice version of Corelli´s Concerto grosso Op.6 Nº 8, “for Christmas”, a beautiful interpretation of J.S.Bach´s charming Nuptial Cantata, BWV 202, “Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten”, with perfect oboe solos by Andrés Spiller and the fresh voice of Soledad de la Rosa. The arrangement by Camillo Sivori of Bottesini´s Grand Concertante Duet for violin, bass and string orchestra (the original is for two basses) was well done by Lulja and bassist Oscar Carnero, whose part is the devil to play (extremely high for a bass). The very musical and precise playing of Dvorák´s charming Serenade Op.22 ended the concert, followed by fine catering, fireworks and dancing, as is traditional in their final nights of the season.