In its final weeks the season still provides interesting concerts. The Buenos Aires Philharmonic gave an unusual programme at the Colón made up of just two scores by prominent British composers, and in each case it was only the second time these creations were heard here. It also brought us the debut of a talented Chinese conductor, Tao Fan, and the return of an appreciated British cellist, Natalie Clein. Benjamin Britten composed his Symphony for cello and orchestra, Op.68, in 1964 for Mstislav Rostropovich, who premiered it in Moscow. Here the artists involved were Arto Noras and conductor Steuart Bedford with the Phil on October 12, 1998, a fascinating day in which there were five British pieces heard for the first time, including Bax´s "Tintagel" and Holst´s "The Perfect Fool".
This Britten work is tough and intense, lasting almost 35 minutes in four movements. We are far from the accessibility of "Peter Grimes" or "Variations and fugue on a theme of Purcell", and close to the hermetic strength of "Phaedra" or "Death in Venice". It was admirably played by Clein and very well accompanied, Tao Fan showing himself to be a prime specimen of Oriental adaptability to Occidental art. Clein played a lovely encore, "El Cant dels Ocells" by Casals.
It was again Bedford with the Phil who let us know in 1979 the magnificent and ample First Symphony by Edward Elgar, written in 1908, lasting 50 minutes and going much beyond the meritorious pioneer efforts of Sullivan, Parry and Stanford. This is noble, majestic Postromantic music of great inspiration, and it was beautifully done by conductor and orchestra. It opened the way to later great symphonists such as Vaughan Williams and Walton.
The final concert of the Bach Academy was offered in the ideal ambience of the Museo de Arte Decorativo by the best Argentine historicist ensemble, La Barroca del Suquía led by violinist Manfredo Krämer, in a splendid Vivaldi-Bach programme. It was a lovely concert throughout, featuring a talented Norwegian mezzosoprano, Marianne Kielland, who had done the same programme in the Córdoba Festival of the "Estancias Jesuíticas", an admirable yearly feature initiated by Krämer some years ago.
The Vivaldi pieces are little-known. A short Symphony "Al Santo Sepolcro" in just two joined movements (not the habitual three), and a very attractive Motet "Cessate omai", RV 584, two recitatives and two arias about the pangs of love in typical Baroque exaggeration, beautifully sung by Kielland, who unites a very pleasant timbre with true musicality. The three Johann Sebastian Bach works presented one famous score, the Concerto in C minor, BWV 1060, for violin, oboe, strings and continuo, and two less heard, the very expressive "Sinfonia" from the great Cantata Nº 21, with oboist Diego Nadra, and Cantata Nº 170, whose title fully corresponds with the music: "Vergnügte Ruh" ("Pleasurable calm"), with Kielland and Nadra in oboe d´amore.
Nadra took some time to find his best form (he is an Argentine working in Amsterdam) but from the Concerto on did a specialist´s job both in oboe and in its related instrument, lower and sweeter, the oboe d´amore. Krämer showed his uncanny ability in the Concerto, Kielland was even more comfortable in Bach than in Vivaldi and the others (two violins, 1 viola, 1 cello, 1 bass, and Federico Ciancio in harpsichord and organ) executed their parts with fine professionalism. There was an encore: Nº 7 from Cantata Nº 64. The concert was a true occasion: a gala for the 30th anniversary of the Bach Academy; may they continue for long in the future: this institution is indispensable.
La Bella Música, led by Patricia Pouchulu, provided important choral-symphonic concerts in earlier seasons. Last year there was an important change: the concert was conducted by Pouchulu, who, apart from being the active organizer of two series of concerts at the Sofitel and at the so-called Salón de los Pasos Perdidos of our Congress, has studied conducting with local and foreign maestros. She fights the prejudice -that shouldn´t exist- about lady conductors, but the concert last year and the one she offered now show that she has real qualities for this activity. The venue was the Avenida.
A deep thanks for having chosen the complete incidental music by Mendelssohn for Shakespeare´s "A Midsummer Night´s Dream", for the whole thing is wonderful: an Overture and nine numbers. I remember with delight a concert about 35 years ago conducted by Peter Maag, but I don´t recollect any recent performance. Both the incredibly precocious Overture (written at 17) and the ultra-famous Wedding March are standards, but all the rest is worth hearing many times; two pieces have vocal solos and children´s choir. The ad-hoc picked orchestra led by concertino Grace Medina responded to the orthodox and sensible conducting quite well; Soledad de la Rosa (soprano) and Mariana Rewerski (mezzo) were the renowned soloists, and the Coro Nacional de Niños under María Isabel Sanz was very agreeable.
Perhaps Beethoven´s most often played Symphony is Nº 7, and understandably so, for its rhythmic drive is irresistible. The main problem is that the music must never flag, and by and large Pouchulu obtained this; she was right in playing the second movement at the marked Allegretto instead of the generally adopted Andante. There was an unexpected and welcome encore, the Barcarolle from Offenbach´s "Les Contes d´Hoffmann". For next year, why not a complete oratorio?