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.