lunes, septiembre 30, 2013

Unconventional concerts can be quite interesting

         In have seen in recent days concerts that were as unconventional as interesting. They were not offered by the big institutions (except that the CETC is a dependence of the Colón) and they were given in rather small venues.

            Alicia Terzian as organizer of concerts has led for an enormous period (45 years) the Festival Internacional Encuentros. She has thus enriched our seasons with valuable music often in premieres. This year the Festival happens mostly in the agreeable hall of the Consejo Profesional de Ciencias Económicas, whose only small problem is that you must go to the seventh floor.

            Up to now I have been able to attend  just two concerts for others collided with events I had to cover, but those I heard were worthy of attention. I was sorry to miss those of the Grupo Encuentros, the New Docta Ensemble and pianist Christopher Guzmán, as well as an homage to Adelma Gómez offered by the organist Luis Caparra at the Basílica del Santísimo Sacramento. However, I caught the recitals by Swiss guitarist Christoph Denoth and by mezzosoprano Marta Blanco accompanied by pianist Enrique Premoli.

            The Denoth programme had a British leaning and started with four pieces by John Dowland originally for lute (his encore was by the same Elizabethan composer). They sound well on guitar.  Then, the world premiere of "Traces", five pieces dedicated to Denoth by Hans-Martin Linde (Switzerland, 1930), well-known as a Baroque flutist. The titles are in English and the second piece is "Remembrance of BB" (Benjamin Britten). We heard moderately modern music written with a sure hand.

            The masterpiece was Britten´s "Nocturnal" Op.70, deeply ruminative transformations of Dowland´s song "Come, heavy sleep". Finally, a premiere by the recently disappeared Hans Werner Henze: "The Royal Wintermusic II Sonata" (On Shakespearean Characters), three pieces of widely divergent style: humorous for "Sir Andrew Aguecheek" and "Bottom´s Dream", and properly dishevelled for "Mad Lady Macbeth". All was played by Denoth with finely honed professionalism.

            Both Blanco and Premoli have worked together in recitals of songs for many years. Their selection of mostly Twentieth-century music this time was strongly in favor of tonal melody and I found their choices unhackneyed and gratifying. The early "Trois mélodies" (1887) by Erik Satie stressed easy singability although the piano part is primitive. Next came a real surprise: three Lieder on Eichendorff texts by famous conductor Bruno Walter, who wrote them in 1910 influenced by Mahler; they are very easy on the ear, with lush Postromantic harmonies.

            Two composers who trained together and were friends  came next: Gian Carlo Menotti with Five songs (1983) on texts of his own (quite good) and Samuel Barber with his Four songs Op.13 (1940) on widely different poetry (Hopkins, Yeats, Agee and Prokosch). In both cases, strongly felt music with a true knowledge of the human voice in a Neo-Romantic style. Finally, Five Songs Op.38 by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, that versatile composer who gave us an opera such as "Die Tote Stadt" but also the music for Errol Flynn movies. Two are Lieder on Dehmel and Eichendorff; the third is on an old Spanish text translated by Koch; the fourth is an English folk text; and the last, a sonnet by Shakespeare; all of them with very apposite music.

            Even the encores were interesting: "Do not go, my love" by the little-known Richard Hageman, and "Heart, we will forget him", from the splendid "Twelve poems of Emily Dickinson" by Aaron Copland.  Blanco and Premoli are two solid veterans and they know what they do; her voice sounded a bit fragile at first but soon took body and range, and the pianist was always in the picture.

            The title of the CETC (Center for Experimentation) recital was intriguing: "Two coyotes". It turned out to be the name taken by two notable Finnish players: cellist Anssi Karttunen and pianist Magnus Lindberg. Why? Because  of a homonymous piece written by Lindberg in 1991 (revised 2002). In fact, that work started this "sui generis" concert made up of Lindberg works plus an improvisation by both players plus two Stravinsky scores arranged by both. Lindberg is in fact a highly considered composer in Europe, although rarely done here.  They are stunning players capable of almost anything, and of course they have complete rapport.

            Lindberg, born 1958, presented three scores: "Two coyotes", cello and piano; "Stroke", for cello (1984); and "Santa Fe Project", cello and piano (2006). His music is tense, contrasted, with some avantgarde traits, and is mostly a game of oppositions between both instruments; "Stroke" is harsh and brief.

             The two Stravinsky arrangements seemed to me unnecessary in the sense that the composer himself has made them for the chosen works: there is a "Suite Italienne" derived from "Pulcinella" and a fine violin/piano arrangement of the Russian song from "Mavra". However, the suite concocted by both players from "Pulcinella" (in itself a Neoclassic modernisation of Pergolesi and attributed Pergolesi originals) is quite different from Stravinsky´s and holds its own with much humor. And the Russian song sounds lovely in cello and piano. 

            Finally, a song recital at the Alliance Française gave me much pleasure, with the revelation of the finely cultivated voice of Sophie Klussmann nicely accompanied by pianist Anaïs Crestin. They collaborated on six Lieder by Brahms, the six exquisite "Ariettes oubliées" by Debussy on Verlaine poems, and a final six Lieder by Schubert.

For Buenos Aires Herald

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