The Buenos Aires Philharmonic (the "Phil") went on with its season among lights and shadows. The concert on May 2 was supposed to be conducted by Adam Medveczky (Polish; it would have been his debut), but for some private reason he cancelled, and was replaced by Alexis Soriano (Spanish, debut). I don´t know if the results would have been better with Medveczky, but the session was only of middling quality. The soloist was French pianist Pascal Rogé, much appreciated from earlier seasons, and I was sorry that the announced Fauré Ballade (an exquisite piece) was replaced by Mozart´s Rondo K.386, for the original programming blended beautifully with the second score played by the soloist, Poulenc´s Piano Concerto.
Also, I believe that conductors that make their debut here should bring along a piece of their repertoire little-known or unknown here; from a Polish artist I would have expected something by Lutoslawski, e.g., and not Gilardi´s "El gaucho con botas nuevas", programmed as a homage for the fiftieth anniversary of his death, which should be assigned to an Argentine conductor. And from Soriano, one of the very many interesting works never heard here from Spain. Another point: it´s bad policy to bring over a conductor for just one concert; they should have at least two consecutive concerts, for in the first, orchestra and conductor get to know each other and in the second the conductor treads much firmer ground. This is the second time this year that a conductor is replaced.
Although Soriano has worked in resident posts in Russia and the USA, I found his conducting tentative in the First Part, with a rather disjointed Gilardi (admittedly the score has some difficult rhythms) and poor accompaniments in Mozart and Poulenc, with the orchestra sounding harsh and insecure. Was it due to the lack of adequate support that Rogé disappointed me, albeit in a much higher plane? He played with taste and adequate technique, but rather opaquely. If I say that he was at his best in the encore, Satie´s Gymnopédie Nº3, it becomes obvious that he felt uncomfortable. And the Poulenc is a tricky creation, with constant contrasts of mood, the composer´s ideas far from the level of his Concerto for two pianos; it´s only with sympathetic handling and collaboration that it convinces the audience.
Probably the conductor knew Schumann´s First Symphony ("Spring") much better, for there his rather fleet and purposeful reading was followed by an attentive orchestra with much better sound. Maybe he missed some of the poetry, but the music-making remained positive.
The Phil´s Artist Director Enrique Arturo Diemecke was back at the helm for the next two concerts. He completely dominates the subscription series conducting twelve out of nineteen concerts, which seems to me quite excessive. Also, I feel that the selection of foreign and Argentine conductors leaves out too many worthwhile names and sometimes the imports could have stayed home with artistic gain for the series. However, Diemecke has authentic talent and very good rapport with the players. But his programming often joins incompatible material, and this was a case in point: Chopin´s First Piano Concerto is hardly a ready partner for Stravinsky´s "Rite of Spring". At least the performances were in both cases so good that the incongruence was less felt.
Our pianist Iván Rutkauskas, born 1989, is certainly one of the best of his generation. With fine support from Diemecke, who managed to make acceptable Chopin´s orchestra, we heard extremely subtle and firm pianism, with admirable phrasing and sensitivity. And after the interval, the conductor feted the centenary of that seminal Stravinsky score with a performance in which the Phil showed herself fully equal to the enormous demands (splendid bassoon, e.g.) and Diemecke again was in impressive command. I would only question an excess of tam tam in the final dance.
I questioned the programming acumen of Diemecke and this was again felt in the following concert. This is the Wagner bicentenary year, and the Colón´s Director Pedro Pablo García Caffi has shamefully ignored him in the opera season, so this Phil concert was the only atonement to such a grievous fault. But... instead of an all-Wagner programme, Rachmaninov felt like an intruder after the splendid early Overture to "Rienzi", in an exciting performance. True, Concerto Nº 1 is an astonishingly mature Op.1 (much more personal than "Aleko") and it gave us the chance to appraise a valuable Brazilian pianist, Jean-Louis Steuerman. He has a sixtyish appearance and an abundant CV; his playing was accurate and solid in extremely complicated writing, though lacking in Romantic feeling, and he was well accompanied (the joins are fearful in Rachmaninov concerti).
I question the pertinence of a Diemecke decision: to play all pieces in the Second Part without a pause; indeed, the applause is necessary to separate quite different worlds, especially when they were not played chronologically. But what wonderful music, and how well it was played and conducted! Thus we heard: Prelude to Act 3 of "Lohengrin"; the orchestral adaptation of "The Ride of the Valkyries" (of course, from "The Valkyrie"); the Prelude and Love-death from "Tristan and Isolde" (again, adapted without voice by the composer) and the Overture to "Tannhäuser", a truly rousing end. I would have preferred Rachmaninov replaced by the "Wesendock Lieder", even if the orchestration isn´t by Wagner, but my heart was uplifted and happy.
For Buenos Aires Herald