lunes, octubre 29, 2012
jueves, octubre 25, 2012
lunes, octubre 22, 2012
For Buenos Aires Herald
martes, octubre 09, 2012
One of the greatest challenges is Beethoven´s Missa Solemnis, arguably the most important mass along with Bach´s in B minor. Pedro Calderón did it some years ago with the forces above, and now that he is 79 he gave his solid interpretation once again with them, and with soloists that come from the CPN (soprano Soledad de la Rosa and tenor Ricardo González Dorrego) plus mezzosoprano Mariana Rewerski replacing the announced Lucila Ramos Mañé, and bass Christian Peregrino. The CPN was led by its Principal Conductor Roberto Luvini.
This is a terribly dense score and admittedly there were occasional fissures, but the overall concept was right and there was a lot of sustained musicianship from the orchestra (especially fine solos from the concertino), the choir (the sopranos mostly coping with the very high notes that Beethoven put in their parts) and the soloists. In this Mass the soloists´ work is very integrated with the choir and there are no arias for them, but the writing is quite difficult. Although both de la Rosa and González Dorrego lacked dramatic intensity, they sang purely and in tune, no mean feat. The presence of Rewerski was a pleasant surprise, for she lives in Europe; her voice is fresh and beautiful. Peregrino has the proper weight but his vibrato is sometimes too accused. Calderón was, as his wont, the master builder we have known for decades, and structure is of the essence in this masterpiece; I only missed some added inspiration in key passages.
Another OSN concert, at the Auditorio de Belgrano (their usual venue), gave us the chance to hear again a splendid Rachmaninov work, "The Bells", on an adaptation of Poe´s poem by Balmont. Forty-two minutes of colorful, varied music, splendidly orchestrated, where the only problem is that some climaxes mix the full-strength choir with the soloist, swamping him under a wall of sound (not a fault of the interpreters). The joy of "The golden jingle bells" (with a tenor), the solemn "Sweet wedding bells" (with soprano), the demonic "Sonorous alarm bells" (no soloist but tremendous choral singing) and "The Funereal Iron Bells", aptly marked "Lento lugubre" (with bass/baritone), are the four parts of a score that was the composer´s favorite. It dates from 1913.
The big CPN sang lustily and the orchestra played enthusiastically. The best soloist was Alejandro Meerapfel, who sang with commanding power. For some reason Alejandra Malvino, a mezzosoprano, was assigned a soprano part; the strain in high notes was comprehensible, then, but she managed alright. González Dorrego was again the tenor, singing clearly and musically. All were led by the young Colombian Hadrián Ávila Arzuza, currently Principal Conductor of the Sinfónica de Córdoba; trained in Russia, he knows the style well and communicated with skill his ideas to all concerned.
Alas, the rest of the programme wasn´t up to the main score of the evening. It started with a prettry horrible premiere, a 6-minute thing called "Ongilash" by its composer Luis Zubillaga, an Argentine who died in 1995 after a life of extreme convictions wrongly oriented in music and politics. It started with a terrible howl, followed by a minute of talks (yes, talks) by the orchestra members with newspapers in their hands, and it ended with almost five minutes of music that went nowhere. By the way, "Ongilash" was an invented word by a small kid, Zubillaga´s son. A wan and rather disjointed execution of Brahms´ "Variations on a theme of Haydn" (well, Brahms and the musicologists thought at the time that the "Divertimento on St Anthony´s chorale" was Haydn´s; it came out that it isn´t; no matter, it´s a fine tune for variations) closed the First Part. A pity that Uruguayan pianist Raquel Boldorini fell ill, for she was to play my favorite Mozart Concerto, the dramatic Nº 24.
The famed series of Conciertos de Mediodía, a branch of the Mozarteum Argentino, presented a German group of very important trajectory: the Hamburg Monteverdi Choir (no connection with the similarly named outfit founded by Gardiner). Led since 1994 by Gothart Stier, it was founded by Jürgen Jürgens in 1955 and made memorable records. After l8 years, of course the singers and the conductor have a fine rapport. In typically contained German fashion, they sang with style and refined dynamics never going beyond a forte. The Gran Rex is hardly adequate for this sort of intimate interpretation but I still got a lot of pleasure out of their traversal of "Four Centuries of European Choral Music", as they called their concert.
The composers were Monteverdi, A.Scarlatti, the unknown Johann Gottfried Schicht, Bruckner, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Stanford, Britten, Debussy and Orff, plus a vidala by Chazarreta, hardly European.
For Buenos Aires Herald
Concert life remains vivid and interesting, witness the good week the Big Three have just had. The Mozarteum Argentino presented a splendid recital at the Colón with cellist Sol Gabetta and pianist Bertrand Chamayou. Nuova Harmonia gave us at the Coliseo the return of Erich zu Guttenberg with the valuable debut of the Orchester der Klangverwaltung. And Festivales Musicales brought us at the Colón another worthwhile first visit, pianist Natasha Paremski.
Our Sol Gabetta is now at 31 among the most feted cellists in the world. Chamayou is the brilliant pianist we have already appreciated last year in a solo recital and in this season as soloist with the Toulouse Capitole Orchestra. His appearance was motivated by a sad circumstance: the untimely death of Mihaela Ursuleasa, originally announced. Well, Gabetta and Chamayou proved a fine team and the only problem was that the cellist´s sound is delicate rather than expansive; although Chamayou often plays softly he is very powerful in the fortissimi and sometimes overwhelmed her. But the quality of the phrasing and adaptation to different styles were never in doubt, and the purely technical accomplishment was astonishing in both artists.
The First Part gave us the elusive Debussy Sonata, full of subtleties, and then Franck´s Violin/piano Sonata in the version for cello and piano, which sounds very well, for the cello´s singability is very apt for the long Franckian melodies. The Second Part offered the Shostakovich Sonata, a piece where different moods make deep contrast and ask a lot of the interpreters, and Piazzolla´s "Le Grand Tango", written for Rostropovich and not one of his most inspired creations. The encores were a beautiful Hebrew melody by Bloch, a Ginastera piece with malambo rhythms and one of the best Piazzollas, the melancholy "Oblivion". The charm and sensibility of Gabetta and the impressive command of Chamayou were fully in evidence thorughout. But I do feel that this sort of music sounds best in a smaller hall than the Colón.
"Orchester der Klangverwaltung": "Orchestra of the administration of sound". What a strange name. "Administration" suggests bureaucrats rather than artists, or anyway the practical rather than the sublime. Nevertheless, the energetic and committed artists of this orchestra evidently feel music very deeply, and so does their conductor, the at long last returned Enoch su Guttenberg, remembered by veterans for his memorable Bach concerts with the Neubeuern Choir. In fact thirty years ago or so he was compared with Karl Richter, and when Rilling came, Bach lovers again evaluated three great specialists.
This Orchestra was founded in 1997 by violinists Andreas Reiner and Josef Kröner, and they are still with it; then and now, their Principal Conductor was and is zu Guttenberg. The biography in the hand programme says that the organism contains members of such orchestras as the Philharmonics of Vienna, Berlin and Munich, no less, as well as renowned chamber players. Also, that some of them have instruments by Stradivari, Amati or Guadagnini. So, no wonder that the strings sound so well. I suppose that the orchestra is together a few months of the year, mainly when their other famed orchestras are on holiday. I suppose then that their summer residence, Herrenchiemsee (near one of Louis II´s famous palaces), is also their main one (halfway between Munich and Salzburg).
Concerning zu Guttenberg, who looks very spry in his late seventies, I have long been surprised after his memorable Bach that I have heard so little about him; although his musical points of view have inspired this Orchestra, he has also been controversial. His phrasings and tempi are often unconventional, and you can like them or not; in this concert I have generally liked them, although some tempi seemed too fast and accents could be found overwrought. Nevertheless, most of the time I deeply enjoyed this programme of the Viennese school made up of masterpieces: the Mozart Overture for "The Magic Flute"; Haydn´s marvelous last Symphony, Nº 104, "London"; and that problematic wonder, Schubert´s Ninth Symphony, "The Great".
The Orchestra played beautifully most of the time, but there were tiny misadjustments and smudges now and then; as conductor and orchestra know each other so well, it must have been circumstantial and didn´t affect the quality of the interpretations; I did prefer Haydn and Mozart to Schubert, however, for I felt there a lack of singability. And by the way, their visit was also a replacement, as the Orchestra MDR Sinfonie Leipzig under Kristjian Järvi cancelled its tour.
Finally, 26-year-old Russian-born Natasha Paremski, fully American after 17 years of residence there, clearly evident in her showy gestures and dress code. But what matters is her playing, certainly redoubtable in a tough programme that had two Russian masterpieces at both ends: Prokofiev´s Seventh Sonata and Mussorgsky´s "Pictures at an Exhibition". In the middle, Chopin: two difficult Ballades (Nos. 1 and 4) and the dreamy Berceuse. Encores: Rachmaninov´s Etude-tableau Op.33/3 (slow), a repeat of the Berceuse, and a long and foolhardy choice that was the best thing of the evening: the almost unplayable "Islamey" by Balakirev, true terror of pianists (she signed herself before playing).
She has strong ideas of her own (I sometimes disagreed) but she is a major pianist capable of lovely softness and of steely fortissimi. Better in the Russians than in the complex world of the Ballades, she was quite often arresting.
jueves, octubre 04, 2012
It may be that the Colón has never seen such a splendid presentation of a Rossini opera as the current "La Cenerentola" ("Cinderella"). It was the work of three important artists. The first two were Colón directors and the third has been an enthusiastic opera goer for decades. I am referring to Sergio Renán, three-time Director (not two as his biography says in the hand programme) and certainly in his most brilliant period one of the two best Directors of the Colón since 1950 (the other, of course, was Enzo Valenti Ferro). To Emilio Basaldúa, who took the Colón in the midst of the 2002 crisis and did a valuable job curtailed because his administration was cut short too soon. To Gino Bogani, famous costume designer that had never been invited by the Colón to collaborate in the staging of an opera.
The Colón has had prominent interpreters during the past half-century: Teresa Berganza and Lucia Valentini-Terrani as the protagonist, Renzo Casellato as Don Ramiro, Sesto Bruscantini as Dandini, Wladimiro Ganzarolli as Don Magnifico; Bruno Bartoletti and Steuart Bedford were notable conductors; and the productions by Joachim Herz and Roberto Oswald were certainly first-rate. All balanced, I´d say that the 1967 performances were the best, but the one I´m commenting on comes a close second.
Pride of place goes to the production. After a long period Renán made his rentrée as producer last year with "The Magic Flute", which unfortunately I didn´t see (I was on a trip). Now in his late seventies, he showed in this "Cenerentola" that his vivid imagination remains intact, and this time (it wasn´t always so) he chose admirable co-equippers. His first decision was to keep the visual side contemporary with Rossini; a pox on the German aridity and conceptualism that plagues Europe nowadays. But at the same time he incorporated technological aspects that enriched the goings on. That´s why the programme says that he is the creator of both "stage direction" and "audiovisual media": I had never seen the use of live video projection on a big scale of the singers´ faces in key moments, and it works admirably to heighten certain passages. Stage movements were psychologically logical and the whole had theatrical rhythm and animation. A charming touch was the airborne carrosse that transports Angelina to the feast.
He was greatly helped by one of the best stage architectures created by Basaldúa; making full use of the restored gyrating disk he built several structures, all of them fully adapted to the needs of the action. So he evoked perfectly the seedy home of Don Magnifico, the cellar in which the same character is named Great Sommelier or the lavish palace of Ramiro. All of it was done with great accuracy by the Colón workshops, who even in the uncomfortable conditions under which they labor are still first-rate. So there was beauty and appositeness on stage. To boot, Bogani imagined very beautiful gowns and other clothes within the style of the 1800s. And the lighting by Eli Sirlin gave Renán all the necessary contrasts of light and shadow.
Some quibbles: a) it was unseemly that early in the First Act the choir crossed hanging laundry within the house and saw Clorinda and Tisbe in their underclothes, b) the Storm was funnily illustrated with a filmed video of a 1920´s car, which jarred with the rest of the production. c) I see no reason for the inclusion of ballet in the Finale.
The cast: the four principals made their local debut. Serena Malfi is very young (born 1985) and will surely give her voice more volume and resonance with time. She started rather weakly (though I´ve often observed that the "new" acoustics cause some distortions in the balance: if I am seating on the left, stalls row 9, I hear the singer with less projection than if I were dead center or on the right). But she gained confidence as she went along; she looks nice, has an adequate style and her florid singing is already pretty good, if you don´t compare with Bartoli or Garança. Kenneth Tarver has the limpid high notes required as Ramiro, he looks handsome and moves well; he is colored, which at first takes some accommodation from the audience, but soon the loss in verisimilutude is compensated by his stylishness.
Dandini, the valet that impersonates Ramiro, needs a lighter touch than the rather rough handling of the role by Greek baritone Aris Argyris; competent but no more. On the other hand, the discovery of the night was the very good buffo Carlo Lepore, who has perfect control of the fast patter singing and of all the adequate gestures, so that he manages to be funny in what is after all a rather monstrous stepfather. Carlos Esquivel, curiously made up to look like Einstein, sang the wise Alidoro very well. And the two stepsisters made a fine team, singing and acting very convincingly: soprano Marisa Pavón and mezzosoprano Florencia Machado.
Reinaldo Censabella conducted with care and good tempi, with only minimal details out of joint in what is a very difficult piece, and the Orchestra sounded in good fettle. A pity that the announced Bruno Campanella didn´t come (no explanation), for he is a specialist, but the results were quite respectable. The Choir in the safe hands of Peter Burian made an agreeable contribution.
For Buenos Aires Herald