A good concert season should provide variety in textures, and this has been the case in recent weeks. String ensemble, flute with strings, children´s choir, mixed and children´s choirs plus pianos and percussion, wind quintet, violin-piano duet, quartet for piano and strings, nonet...Not bad.
The Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra is an old friend of the Mozarteum (they were here in 1987, 1994 and 1996). Their return after 17 years was a logical idea, and they were accompanied by a star flutist that made his local debut: Emmanuel Pahud. As I have often written, "chamber orchestra" is a misnomer for a string ensemble; to bear that name it should comport also winds and have between about 30 and 45 players, ideal for the Haydn symphonies. This string ensemble (the FLCO) numbers 17, all with resoundingly Hungarian surnames, and one of the artists isn´t of the violin family; he plays harpsichord and piano.
It ´s always nice to start with Johann Sebastian Bach, and we heard the Third Brandenburg Concerto , the only one for strings. The playing was skillful but rather bland, not incisive and rhythmical enough. And I disagree with what they did between the two fast movements; Bach only wrote two harmonic bars, not a movement: just a cadential join. The harpsichordist played a Bach piece I couldn´t place; it sounded thin and out of place (also, harpsichords are hardly heard in the vast Colón).
Things picked up with Vivaldi´s well-known Flute Concerto Op.10 Nº1, "The Sea Storm". Pahud showed an uncanny command of the instrument, with perfect intonation and very fast playing; he is a bit of a showman and maybe he exaggerates, but it´s exciting to hear him. The FLCO accompanied well (the roster doesn´t identify the concertino; it should). Then , the nine-fragment Suite by Henri Purcell from the incidental music to "Abdelazer" by Aphra Behn; the second piece is familiar to music lovers, for it was chosen by Britten for his "Variations and fugue on a theme by Purcell". This is charming English Baroque and it was beautifully played. Frederick the Great of Prussia was the rare case of an oustanding monarch that was also a good musician; it was for him that Quantz wrote dozens of flute concertos, but Frederick also wrote three, and we heard the Third, an accomplished piece well worth playing. Again Pahud was a real star.
After the interval we heard a very interesting score, the Ballad for flute, strings and piano (one of six for different combinations) by the Swiss composer Frank Martin (1890-1974), written in a style of moderate but personal modernism. It was splendidly done and had quite a success with the public. That small masterpiece, Mozart´s Divertimento K.138, was well played, but I´ve heard sharper lines in other interpretations. Finally, the precocious Flute Concerto Nº2 by Saverio Mercadante, the Romantic that wrote operas like "Il Bravo"; this concerto was written at 18 in Rossinian vein and it´s a charmer. Brilliant Pahud and attentive string players. Encores (both with flute): Piazzolla´s "Libertango", rather well done, and the "Badinerie" from Bach´s Second Suite, with unnecessary extra ornaments.
The Coro Nacional de Niños was molded during decades by Vilma Gorini de Teseo; after her death, her disciple María Isabel Sanz took over with responsibility and discipline. She led them at the Coliseo for Festivales Musicales. The First Part started with the five short songs of "Petites voix" by Francis Poulenc. Then, a wonder of its kind, Britten´s "A ceremony of Carols", accompanied by harpist Ariadna Ruiz Cheylat, excellent. The songs, on texts in Old English, are very beautiful and were sensitively sung; the children tried hard and had some success in pronouncing English and French correctly. The voices are fresh and true.
Orff´s "Carmina Burana" is a best-seller generally done in the full orchestral version, but it sounds well and in a way sharper in the alternate instrumentation written by Orff: two pianos and percussion (similar to Stravinsky´s "Les Noces"). The children have little to do in this cantata (moreover, thay have erotic lyrics!) dominated by the mixed choir, in this case the Lagun Onak directed by Miguel Ángel Pesce. The version was accurate and rather dry, with some voices showing strain in high notes. So did baritone Alejandro Meerapfel; he is a bass-baritone and the part lies too high for him, though he is a good artist. Soledad de la Rosa sang well, and countertenor Damián Ramírez gave to his Burnt Swan song a grotesque touch.
Ukrainian violinists Oleg Pishenin and Natalia Shishmonina are Ukrainian, married, and live in Argentina. The cycle "Intérpretes argentinos" at the Colón in Sunday mornings is free and a good initiative. They played a strange arrangement of J.S.Bach´s Partita Nº 1, originally for solo violin, and then the early "Five pieces" for two violins and piano by Shostakovich, accompanied by Iván Rutkauskas. Then, 13 of the 44 Duets for violins by Bartók, fascinating pieces admirably played; a short Fauré ("The awakening", on a famous song of his); "Melody" and "Nocturne" by a composer unknown for me, Mijael Tariverdiev, strictly tonal (here Shishmonina showed a fine line in her solo); and the dynamic "Navarra" by Sarasate, a virtuoso piece well handled. From Fauré on, all the pieces were accompanied by Rutkauskas, with his usual solvency.
For Buenos Aires Herald