domingo, mayo 06, 2012

About orchestral players Russian and Argentine

          AMIJAI is a very special institution, both synagogue and concert auditorium, flanked by an Uruguayan parrilla and Oriental restaurants and in front of an Andalusian patio. The acoustics are good though a bit dry, and the hall is pleasant and well built, preceded by a garden with pond and papyri. I have enjoyed going there during the last decade and have heard many splendid concerts. The start of the current season was important: the debut of the National Russian Orchestra, conducted for this tour by the veteran José Serebrier, a talented Uruguayan of vast international career (300 recordings!) well-known here. 
           The Orchestra was founded in 1990 and despite the "National", it is financed by private sponsors and led by a "distinguished multinational trust fund". Although only 65 players came to BA, it probably is a good deal bigger at home. But for the selected nineteenth-century programme the sound was loud enough, and anyway probably the stage couldn´t hold a hundred. The soloist in Tchaikovsky´s concerto was the organism´s concertino, Alexey Bruni (debut), and I was surprised that after the effort of playing such difficult and tiring music  he took the concertino´s seat for Dvorák´s Eighth Symphony. The evening had started with Beethoven´s "Egmont" Overture, so I was disappointed that there was no innovation whatsoever.
            What struck me most was the exactness of attacks and releases throughout the night. This was of course a merit of the conductor, but also of an orchestra that is disciplined and wholly professional. The impact and precision of trombones and trumpets, e.g., was impressive, but I also admired the incisive neatness of the clarinet, or the unanimity of the violins´ bowing, which is essential to a homogeneous and continuous line. In the Concerto Bruni played like the good concertino he is, with some smudges in the first movement and not quite enough personality in the molding of phrases, though by the time he reached the vertiginous Finale he was playing with great firmness. The perfect agreement at fast speeds between violinist and orchestra was a plus.  Serebrier´s vast experience and fitness in old age was evident at all times. I only cavil at some "tempi" (speeds) in Dvorák´s lovely and exhilarating symphony: some were too slow and others too fast; but conviction and communication were always there. Encores: an unidentified solo violin caprice or etude; Bach´s Aria from the Third Suite (too Romantic for my taste in this interpretation); Piazzolla´s "Oblivion" for oboe and strings, nicely done; and Dvorák´s Slavonic Dance Op.72 Nº 3, charming and sweet.   
            After three pre-season concerts at the Bolsa de Comercio, the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional started its regular season at the Auditorio de Belgrano. Its long-time Principal Conductor, Pedro Ignacio Calderón, was at the helm of a valuable combination of contrasting scores. It began with one of Ginastera´s best works, the Pampeana Nº 3, three movements of convincing subjective nationalism. Then, Bruch´s most famous piece, his First Concerto for violin, whose perfervid Romanticism needs a virtuoso of the old style, with fat sounds and perfect mechanism. Luis Roggero, one of the two concertinos of the OSN, isn´t quite that, but he played very cleanly and professionally. I felt him rather uncomfortable in his tough encore, Bach´s Gavotte en Rondeau from the Third Partita. 
            Gustav Holst´s "The Planets" is by now an international best-seller and has been played about ten times in BA since 1974. The seven-movement suite lasts about 50 minutes and describes with uncanny exactness the "astrological significance of each planet", according to the author; written around 1916, it is a marvel of orchestration and of virtuosic rhythmic, melodic and harmonic composing. Calderón at 77 is still unbeatable as the ablest local orchestral builder, and again obtained the best results from the orchestra he has led since 1994. It was a splendid performance from all concerned, and I only object to the lack of enough pianissimo from the female side of the Coro Polifónico Nacional (Darío Marchese) in the concluding measures of "Neptune".
            Juan Pablo Izquierdo is another Grand Old Man of conducting but from Chile. Apparently the profession is conducive to longevity and good health, for Izquierdo has lost not one iota of energy and creativity since the remote days of his first Argentine appearance. Long acknowledged as a Twentieth-Century expert, he dealt with acumen and adequate tension with Francisco Kroepfl´s "Adagio in memoriam" for strings. Although intonation was sometimes poor in the cello-bass sector, the unexpected expressivity of this Bergian piece from the usually cerebral Kroepfl came across convincingly. I love Prokofiev´s Second Violin Concerto almost as much as the First, always fascinated with its melodies, orchestration "trouvailles" and motoric drive. But Lucía Luque, a young player from Córdoba currently living in Italy, although she has an impressive technique, applied so liberally sliding up to notes and rhythmic flexibility that Izquierdo was hard put to follow her. And indeed there were bad joins and unclear moments. Luque played a very unfamiliar encore, a well-written Caprice Nº 20 by Delfina Lar, if I understood correctly.
            A few days earlier I had heard Brahms´ Fourth Symphony by Diemecke and the B.A. Phil. I generally don´t relish that our two main concert orchestras should be redundant in repertoire, but in this case I was bowled over by the energy and coherence of Izquierdo´s masterful reading. And again by the irresistible power of this music. I left the hall elated.
For Buenos Aires Herald