viernes, agosto 09, 2013

Diemecke and the Phil, a fine team

                Enrique Arturo Diemecke has been the Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic for seven years, a long period, and he has been undoubtedly successful both with the orchestra and the public. The reasons are clear: the Mexican maestro, in his fifties, is dynamic, has full command of his craft, a monumental memory, a communicative warmth and charisma. These are fine qualities, and I would add that the Orchestra in these difficult years comprising the closure of the Colón has been honed by Diemecke into a fine ensemble, worthy of showing their collective talents internationally, as they did a long time ago.

                One drawback has always been his clownesque way of saluting the audience; he is all business when conducting, fully concentrated, but I have always been bothered by that strange dichotomy: he may conduct a sublime interpretation of Mahler´s Third; however, once his arms go down a completely different Diemecke appears, a Las Vegas entertainer. And I believe in the integration of art and demeanor; I don´t find it in him.

                And by now, after seven years, I believe it is time for some changes. His tastes and repertoire are well-known, and whole swaths of worthwhile music are left unexplored year after year. He feels comfortable with Romantics and Post-Romantics, and with tonal Twentieth-Century music, and he has the long view for the great scores of Mahler, Bruckner and Strauss, but he avoids the Vienna School (Schönberg , Berg, Webern), seems to have little interest in British, USA and Nordic music and generally in the avantgarde. I respect his preferences  but I believe that 12 concerts in a subscription series of 19 is far too much.

                Two things should be revised in the future: a) there should be either a longer series (say 24 concerts) or a division into two series (12 and 12) for there are several weeks a year in which the Phil is left idle, and the Orchestra costs a lot of money. And there should be a better choice of visiting conductors, invited to explore specific repertoires that Diemecke leaves aside. There are lots of talented people (as talented as Diemecke or even more) that haven´t come here. And they should conduct two concerts, not one, as has been the general and unhappy rule these years.

                The two most recent concerts showed him in fine form. The Second Part of the first concert was dedicated to Mendelssohn, with the "Italian" Symphony and four fragments of "A Midsummer Night´s Dream", closing of course with the Wedding March. I love this composer but the "AMND" music had been heard last year, it wasn´t necessary. The playing was quite good, though a bit hectic in the first movement of the symphony.

                The First Part was much more interesting, for after a rather long while we could hear Édouard Lalo´s best work, the "Spanish Symphony", in fact a five-movement suite with violin soloist. The composer, although born in Lille, was of Spanish descent and you certainly feel it in this varied, Mediterranean and colorful music, where the level of inspiration is high, especially in the final movement. The concertino of the Phil, Pablo Saraví, is a very accomplished player and he gave us refined phrasing, tasteful and authentic; I only missed some volume in the starker passages. He was well-accompanied.

                Two of the things I don´t like in this subscription series were present in the following concert: a) the yuxtaposition of completely incompatible styles, although alleviated by the interval; b) a particularly stupid title, "A sound epic", in the long list of silly sobriquets these concerts have (I don´t know if the fault is Diemecke´s or of the Artistic Director García Caffi), for it certainly doesn´t apply to Ravel, who was the composer of Part One. One thing I like: the campaign, charmingly led by Diemecke, of educating the public by reconvening it humorously about out-of-line clapping between movements and mobile phones that are heard when they shouldn´t.

                Sergio Tiempo, Venezuelan by chance (it was the place where his father Martín was doing his diplomatic duty at the time), is a tremendously talented member of a musical family that comprises his grandfather  Antonio de Raco and his half-sister Karin Lechner (both were born to Lyl De Raco, Antonio´s daughter and a great piano teacher). The sheer facility of his playing is amazing, and he joins to that a beautiful touch and a strong rhythmic sense.

                The quirky Ravel Concerto for left-hand piano is a "tour de force"; its 18-minute course is fraught with difficulties, but all hurdles were negotiated with ease by pianist and orchestra. The encore was a true surprise: common practice is for soloists to play a solo piece, but this time I was amazed to hear the start of the second movement of Ravel´s Piano Concerto (two hands), his most Mozartian creation. After about three minutes of just the piano, Diemecke subtly made his way to the podium and added the orchestral accompaniment. The interpretation was magical and will long remain in my memory.

                The Bruckner Fifth Symphony is his toughest: 70 minutes of uncompromising strength, a blend of amplified sonata form and complex counterpoint plus a cyclical solution in the last movement. Here both the Phil and Diemecke showed their mettle with an admirably thought-out and beautiful rendition of this long but concentrated symphony.

For Buenos Aires Herald

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