Or should I say "famous singer disconcerts me? For another veteran reviewer wrote an opinion 180 degrees separated from mine; which goes to prove that we critics are a very mixed bunch, and you have to choose with whom you agree. Criticism should be based on knowledge and perception, but it is always a risky proposition, even after 47 years of steady work. So feel free to disagree if you were at either of the two debut concerts of Vesselina Kasarova opening the Mozarteum season at the Colón.
But before I get "in medias res" concerning Ms Kasarova, some paragraphs on other important matters. Jungle drums had already told me that Luis Alberto Erize is the new President of the Mozarteum Argentino, replacing his mother, Madame Jeannette Arata de Erize, who is now ninety, and I have no doubt to proclaim her as the most valuable personality ever in the field of concert giving in our country. She is now "emeritus", and words fail me to enumerate her merits. But at least this succinct phrase says it all: six decades of quality music by great artists, offered with absolute honesty towards both artists and public, in this incredibly uncertain country. It is at least twice as difficult to do so here than in France or Canada. As to Luis Alberto Erize, he´s had the best possible teacher, his mother; and as I know him well and consider myself a true friend of his, I extend here a complete vote of confidence in his orientation and capacity for the arduous job ahead. He will have the invaluable support of Gisela Timmermann as Executive Director, as Jeannette had during decades.
In 2001 the Mozarteum brought us the very welcome first visit of the Camerata Bern led in that tour by Heinz Holliger, then the foremost oboe player in the world. It was a memorable visit both for Holliger and the Camerata; the organism, created in 1962, already had a rich trajectory. Cohesion, taste, tradition and strict professionalism were then appreciated. This time they are led by a very good violinist, Florian Donderer, who has been the concertino of various celebrated ensembles. Although he played few solos, he is obviously very capable as a player and the 25 instrumentalists, mostly Swiss, respond as one. I believe the first flutist, Cecilia Muñoz, is Argentine.
The purely orchestral scores were from three composers. First, two pieces premiered, written by Fabian Müller, a Swiss born in 1964), in "Schwyzer Deutsch": "Maden, Motten und das Muotathal" and "Ein Berner namens...". Amiable and humoristic, they might be termed "folkish with dissonances". Ten minutes of light and pleasant stuff in a parade of galop, Jodl, Ländler, polca and march. Sandwiched between Mozart arias, the splendid Haydn Overture to "L´isola disabitata", with its reminiscences of "Sturm und Drang". And in the Second Part, the probably greatest Mozart symphony, Nº 40, with sung Rossini before and after. As is the trend now, rather fast tempi, which agree with the "Finale: Allegro assai", and with the "Andante", but not with the initial movement, which, although marked Molto allegro, benefits from a slower tempo and especially, a characterful expression of the main them, here lacking; the Menuetto is an "Allegretto" and here sounded "Allegro". But of course, quite well-played throughout and very disciplined.
And now to Vesselina Kasarova. I know her through DVDs and CDs but had never heard her live. Bulgarian (as Christoff, Ghiuselev and Ghiaurov), she was brought up under the rigid Communism typical of that country, by far the most USSR-oriented of the Iron Curtain; musical training was very good although freedom was non-existing, and she did piano and singing. She was launched by Von Karajan in 1989 and her career was meteoric in the following fifteen years. Her singing in that period, although quite personal, was interesting and accurate. She sang a lot of Mozart and Rossini, as well as the Baroque. But in later years she went on to a dramatic repertoire of Carmen and Eboli and adopted quirks that diminish the quality of her style and singing of the classical period. Well, the Camerata Bern asked for that earlier repertoire for this tour, and I´m afraid she is no longer adequate for it.