The final two concerts of the Bach Academy again provided a high level of quality and information. The fifth of their season took place in their habitual haven, the Iglesia Metodista Central, and it commemorated the fortieth anniversary of the excellent Grupo de Canto Coral (GCC) led since its inception by Néstor Andrenacci.
Although Antonio Lotti sounds Italian, he was born in Hannover in 1666, but from 1706 to 1740, the year of his death, he was "maestro di cappella" of Venice´s Saint Mark. Nevertheless he spent some years in Dresden writing operas and later returned to Venice and wrote sacred music. As the title of this year´s Academy programme is "Bach and the Dresden Court", Lotti fits this idea; moreover, Bach copied and instrumented one of his masses. The very interesting 19-minute Mass in A major, as the programme says, is "a bridge between Late Baroque and Early Classicism".
J.S:Bach´s lovely motet "Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden", on Psalm 117, is the only one of the six written for four voices. For once the Academy strayed from the Baroque and included German Romantics writing in the Bach tradition: the double-choir motet "Warum toben die Heiden", on Psalm Nº 2, showed Mendelssohn at his starkest and most contrapunctal, and finally Brahms´ three "Fest- und Gedenksprüche" ("Festive and Commemorative Apothegms"), on texts from the Psalms, Lucas, Matthew and Deuteronomy, are for two choirs and shows him in a deeply reflective and strong mood.
A tough programme of beautiful but demanding music, it was sung with admirable discipline and style by fresh, mostly young voices, led with the intelligence, command and taste that we have come to expect through the decades from Néstor Andrenacci.
The final concert was at the warmest and most attractive venue for this sort of concert: the Museo de Arte Decorativo, with its ideal acoustics. It ended with the surefire Bach hit (heard last year) Cantata Nº 51, "Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen", where both soprano Soledad de la Rosa and trumpet player Fernando Ciancio had a field day, but we were offered three worthwhile premières before that, all connected with Dresden.
In recent years there has been a vindication in Europe (not here) of Johann Adolf Hasse (1699-1783) who was during several decades the most famous opera composer of his time; the very pleasant "Sinfonia" (Overture) of his opera "Cleofide" is a good introduction to his art, and it was written for Dresden. There´s a complete recording of the opera under Christie; its alternate name is "Alessandro nell´Indie".
Probably one of the most original Baroque composers , and much appreciated by Bach, was Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745). "Laudate pueri Dominum", on Psalm 113, is brilliantly written for soprano, trumpet, strings and continuo. Johann David Heinichen (1683-1729) was a prolific composer long attached to Dresden; we heard his Concerto in C minor, S.237 (S. for Seibel) for oboe, strings and continuo, a splendid work, expressive and personal. Another Baroque surprise.
Andrés Spiller was the admirable oboist, De la Rosa and Ciancio sang and played finely in Zelenka, and the excellent string group had the familiar and always welcome players of the Bach Academy: Pablo Saraví and Gabriel Pinette, violins; Marcela Magin, viola; Edgardo Zollhofer, cello: Fernando Fieiras, bass. With Mario Videla leading from the organ and giving information on each work in his humorous but instructive style, as he has done for many long years in this Academy that is his much beloved child.
A rather offbeat concert brought me to the distant Usina del Arte, where in a Sunday morning I heard Hopkinson Smith, considered one of the great lutenists of our age. He has come here before but I hadn´t been able to catch him; alas, it was a disappointing occasion. The lute is a frail instrument with little decibel power, and it felt quite lost in the expanses of the main auditorium of the Usina, moreover rather dry in its acoustics. It was a free concert, and I was amazed to find that the stalls were all taken; I had to go to the First Floor. The nearly 1200-people capacity was almost covered.
Fact is, the sounds that came out were so tenuous that I had to strain to hear anything; those that were close to him certainly had a great advantage. There´s a smaller hall at the Usina, but the organizers shifted to the big one due to the demand; the frustration of not being able to attend became that of almost not hearing him.
Nevertheless, I gradually grew accustomed to the very small sound and partially enjoyed a programme that was, as expected, played with great command and knowledge by a man in his sixties. It bothered me that he preluded the pieces with his improvisations and didn´t leave enough space before really starting.
The programme had a suggestive appellation: "The winds of change: early XVIIth century music in England and the European continent". From the "Premier Livre de Luth", Paris 1611, five pieces by Robert Ballard (ca. 1570-1640); from "Il Primo Libro de Intavolatura de Lauto", Rome 1611, another five by Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger (1575-1641). And all the rest by England´s foremost composer for lute, John Dowland (1563-1626): two pieces for famous Hesse and Antwerp residents, three feminine portraits, plus the "Lachrymae Pavin" and a "Fantasie". Lovely music admirably played, but the venue...For Buenos Aires Herald