The long Summer desert of classical music is coming to an end. Come March and the orchestral musicians are back from their protracted holidays (main reason for the total hiatus in symphonic activity). The Colón´s orchestras start their rehearsals and the National Symphony (as usual very late in announcing its plans) begins what it calls its pre-season activities. In two consecutive days (Thursday and Friday) the Buenos Aires Philharmonic started its subscription series at the Colón, and the NS gave the first of three non-subscription free concerts at the Bolsa de Comercio. The Phil this year will offer 16 subscription concerts instead of the 20 it used to play; but at least the organism had an apparently normal start of activities, not as last year, when both Colón orchestras( the Resident –“Estable”- and the Phil) were on strike. An isolated good point in an otherwise bad panorama happened at the very end of last year, when finally proper competitions were held to cover over 25 vacancies in the permanent staff of the“Estable” (they were until then held by artists under contract). Rumor has it that the same thing will happen at the Phil; I do hope so, for the traditional system of “permanent corps” (“cuerpos estables”) has beeen fortunately upheld by the mentioned competition, putting to rest fears of dissolving stability and of a new system of organisms made up purely of artists under contract, with no assured continuity of labor. But 16 concerts is too little; I surmise that it perhaps happens because the Phil may be used as complementary orchestra in the November “Colón Ring” (no single orchestra can stand seven hours of playing). Also, I feel that it´s an exaggeration to have its Principal Conductor, Enrique Arturo Diemecke, in nine out of sixteen concerts. It relegates variety, and there are so many interesting conductors that haven´t been here.
Diemecke has a thing with commemorations and this year he decided to include four scores by our great pioneer Alberto Williams: 150 years of his birth and 60 of his death. Unfortunately he eschewed the desirable possibility of programming one of the composer´s nine symphonies, so neglected. In fact he began by one of Williams´ oldest pieces, the First Concert Overture of 1889. Some colleagues wrongly said that it is rarely done, when on the contrary it is the most popular of his symphonic works and has been played about a dozen times in the last 60 years in this city. A strong structure influenced by his master César Franck, the Overture is certainly pleasant and accomplished. It was nicely played and conducted with conviction from memory.
It was a fine idea to programme Shostakovich´s First Violin Concerto, probably the best of his concerted creations. Written in 1948, the composer wisely waited until after Stalin´s demise to premiere it (the dictator was his nemesis). At the request of his interpreter, the great David Oistrakh, after the enormous cadenza he gave the soloist a break letting the orchestra expose the principal material of the final Burlesque. Intense music no holds barred, it is a challenge that was roundly met by Italian-American violinist Nadia Salerno-Sonnenberg (debut). Playing with enormous concentration, the mature artist showed herself fully involved and in command in the dense, introspective writing that alternates with fragments of disquieting fast-forward and sarcastic music . Very well-accompanied by a conductor and orchestra on their toes, the 38-minute score shone as the major work it is.
Richard Strauss´ “Domestic Symphony” is in fact a huge four-section tone poem (48 minutes). Created in 1903 after his numerous masterpieces of the genre (suffice it to mention “Don Juan” and “A Hero´s Life”), this programmatic symphony (later complemented by the “Alpine”) was and is controversial for it purports to recount the married life of the composer and his wife Pauline de Ahna; the three principal subjects are “the husband”, “the wife” and “the boy” (a lovely melody for an instrument in disuse, the “oboe d´amore”). Fantastically complex, wonderfully orchestrated and always Straussian to the core, it has its ups and downs but most of it is fascinating. Again Diemecke showed an almost miraculous memory and an admirable comprehension of the idiom. The augmented orchestra wasn´t always up to par (a bad trumpet mistake, unclean horn attacks) but the work has truly virtuoso requirements and this was more than a brave try. A very full audience was enthusiastic.
The National Symphony was under their Principal Conductor Pedro Ignacio Calderón in their “rentrée” at the Bolsa de Comercio. For some reason (I don´t know if there are ameliorations) the acoustics felt truer and less resonant than of yore. The organism was in fine fettle and under the inspired conducting of their longtime leader gave us a splendid rendition of that beautiful symphony, Dvorák´s Sixth, certainly the best before the final famous three. Please do play the others!
The First Part started with an unusual and in a way moving premiere: the Suite for strings and countertenor by Aby Rojze, 77-year-old violinist of the NS who started a composing career at 70 with the guidance of Augusto Rattenbach. Tonal music with an acute sense of melody and harmony, I enjoyed the three-movement score, as well as the lovely singing of Pehuén Díaz Bruno. Finally, the talented violist Silvina Álvarez played beautifully a charming work by Carl Maria Von Weber, “Andante and Hungarian Rondo”.