The Midday Concerts of the Mozarteum Argentino have arrived at an incredible 53rd season, always giving valuable one-hour free menus of good music. I have written this year about several of them, and I will now comment on three more (the last two conclude their activity until 2013). The matte, mediocre acoustics of the Gran Rex are always a hindrance, however.
Very few artists have had such lasting influence as the long-lived violinist, conductor and pedagogue Ljerko Spiller, the molder of several generations of Argentine violinists and other players. In a concert delayed due to unforeseeable circumstances, his son, the oboist Andrés Spiller, and violinist Haydée Seibert, coordinated after Ljerko´s death a splendid homage in an all-Mozart programme. A pity that the date change meant that another of his sons, violinist Antonio Spiller, had to be replaced by José Bondar.
The lovely Quartet for oboe and strings was magisterially played by Andrés Spiller and quite well by Bondar, Gustavo Massun (viola) and Diego Sánchez (cello). The marvelously expressive Quintet in G minor, K.516, was very cleanly played by the Cuarteto Buenos Aires (Seibert and Grace Medina, violins; Marcela Magin, viola; Edgardo Zollhofer, cello) plus Julio Domínguez (second viola), but I missed some extra intensity. Finally, it was quite moving to hear the overplayed Divertimento K.136, simply because it was offered with heartwarming sincerity by a much ampler group than usual for this work, 42 players-disciples under Andrés Spiller.
Readers will remember earlier reviews in which I made reference to the wonderful work of eighteenth-century Jesuits in two isolated regions of Bolivia, Moxos (in Beni) and Chiquitos (to the East of Santa Cruz), and the fortunate retrieval of vast amounts of musical manuscripts, a treasure of Colonial Baroque. The Ensamble Moxos under Raquel Maldonado Villafuerte comes from San Ignacio and has visited us before. I remember an admirable concert a couple of years ago at the Museo Fernández Blanco. This time at the Gran Rex it was more a sociological show than a straight concert, with plenty of stage effects and entrances through the stalls corridors with Indian paraphernalia. The emphasis was clearly on the indigenous side rather than the imported European Baroque, but it was a wild success.
The traditional "Moxeño" pieces began and closed the session: "La Fiesta del Barco" and a very animated "Velorio". Apart from two identified European pieces, Jan Josef Ignác Brentner´s "Gloria et Honore" and a Sonata Chiquitana by Ignazio Balbi, the rest was anonymous, from Moxos or Chiquitos. The singers and players were disciplined and convincing under the strong guidance of Maldonado, who also spoke to the audience. Some instruments were indigenous and curious.
The Orquesta Sinfónica del Neuquén is the most Southern of our Republic and of the world and it was founded in 2000. Since 2006 it is led by Andrés Tolcachir. Now the Mozarteum brought it to our capital for the third time, and it was a pleasant event, as were the first two visits. It is a small orchestra, only 41, so it should be classified as a chamber orchestra, but for that size Tolcachir´s choices were right: the beautiful Overture "The Hebrides" by Mendelssohn, and the most smiling of Beethoven´s symphonies, Nº 6, "Pastoral". Completely orthodox interpretations played with convincing professionalism; again the acoustics didn´t help, and Tolcachir´s temperament seemed too restrained at times, although technically good.
Chopiniana is a cycle of piano concerts centered on Chopin and led enthusiastically by Martha Noguera year after year. This season the venues were much better, the Avenida for the first concert, about which I also wrote (six Polish artists playing Chopin´s concerted pieces), and the Casacuberta at the San Martín for the rest, an ideally intimate amphitheatre with fine acoustics. The second concert was atypical; for the first time there was no piano. But the session by the Polish Prima Vista Quartet was justified by a special reason: the first score was written by Chopin´s teacher Jozef Elsner, a very agreeable Late Classicist Quartet Op.8 Nº 3 in D minor and three movements, certainly a premiere, which also applies to Moniuszko´s melodic First Quartet (he was the author of a beloved opera, "Halka"). I found Karol Lipinski´s Polonaise Nº 3 commonplace, but Szymanowski´s Second Quartet is innovative and inspired. The members of the quartet are talented veterans and they did a fine job, undeterred by the sparse audience: Krzystof Bzowka and Josef Kolinek, violins; Piotr Nowicki, viola; and Zbigniew Krzyminski, cello.
Frederic Chiu is an American of Chinese descent and he visited us some years ago. I had rather liked his recital, as it turned out a good deal more than the one he gave this season. His playing was very square and cerebral, lacking the flexibility and tonal charm Romantic music requires. One interesting choice was Mendelssohn´s Sonata Op.6, which turns out to be from 1826, when the author was 17, and is a four-movement score of considerable quality (no details in the hand programme). The rest was normal repertoire: Four mazurkas Op.17 and Nocturne Nº 13 by Chopin, Liszt´s "Sposalizio" and Schumann´s "Fantasia". The encore was unusual: an arrangement by Chiu of Prokofiev´s Troika from "Lieutenant Kije".
Finally, Martha Noguera was her reliable self in a difficult programme of standards: Beethoven´s Sonata Nº 8, "Pathetic", and Sonata Nº 23, "Appassionata"; and Chopin´s complex Four Ballads. The encores: more Chopin: Nocturne Nº 2 and the "Heroic" Polonaise.