Two important institutions ended their seasons recently. Considering the dire economic conditions of our country, it must be stated that they managed quite well to keep a high level.
The Combattimento Consort Amsterdam was invited to close the Mozarteum Argentino´s year. It´s the third time here for this distinguished group (2003 and 2005 were the earlier dates, both with the Mozarteum). Founded in 1982 by Jan Willem de Vriend, the Dutch violinist is still in charge from his concertino post. The name of the ensemble seems misleading considering the repertoire they brought, for it is a reference to "Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda" by Monteverdi, and "consort" is a typical Late Renaissance small group. But they gave us music written between about 1763 to 1776, the full tide of Classicism.
To my mind the roster of only 18 players is a bit low for the material they did; at least 25 would be more likely. Strings, flute, two oboes, bassoon, two horns and harpsichord. Moot point: valve horns for Joseph Haydn´s Symphony Nº44, "Trauer" ("Mournful"); natural horns for Rameau´s Suite from his last opera, "Les Boréades". Otherwise, modern strings with metal, not gut. Not a historicist ensemble as far as the instruments go, then, but one that was attuned to the phrasing of those times with taste and drive.
It was a wonderful programme, starting with the charming French-influenced Divertimento Nº 11, K.251, by Mozart, in six movements; it can be played by an orchestra or as a septet. Apart from a first Menuetto that was too fast, the interpretation was excellent: accurate, and with wholly appropriate dynamic details that enlivened the discourse. Bad mark: a part of the public applauded after the fifth movement, and De Vriend approved in a brief speech stating that that it also happened in Mozart´s time... It isn´t intelligent to promote wrong behavior nowadays.
Thomas Carroll, a cellist from Wales, made a resplendent debut in Haydn´s First Concerto, where I would only question the vertiginous speed of the Finale, although it was brilliantly negotiated by soloist and orchestra. But what a beautiful tone, perfect articulation and intonation! A true discovery.
Rameau´s suite was fascinating, the most imaginative, even extravagant Late Baroque. Alas, the hornists were guilty of many bloopers. Amends were made with a sensitive and exact Haydn symphony of his Pre-Romantic "Sturm und Drang" period, prophetic music that never ceases to amaze me. The encore was a Gluck dance that seemed a Fandango.
The final two concerts of Nuova Harmonia were quite pleasant. The debut of Interpreti Veneziani at the Coliseo was very positive. It is a small string group: five violins, viola,cello, bass; plus harpsichord. Nine is a bit too small; I prefer about twelve, adding a violin, a viola and a cello, for otherwise you don´t have the necessary contrast in Baroque works between soloist and "ripieno" (their term for the full ensemble). But apart from this, the group is excellent, playing with modern instruments but with historicist lines of interpretation: dynamic, strong, accurate, rhythmical and in tune.
Both Corellí´s Concerto grosso Op.6 Nº4 and the three well-chosen Vivaldi Concerti went swimmingly. In the latter´s Concerto for two violins RV523 the brilliant soloists were Paolo Ciociola (the group´s concertino) and Nicola Granillo; in the beautiful Op.9 Nº5 ("La Cetra") the violinist was Sebastiano Maria Vianello; and in Op.3 Nº2 ("L´estro armonico"), Ciociola and Pietro Talamini. All this was of very high quality.
I wasn´t so happy about most of the rest. I enjoy Marin Marais´ music, but his "Folies d´Espagne" should be played with viola da gamba, not cello, even if the cellist is as exact and passionate as Davide Amadio. Taqruinio Merula is an Early Baroque composer; his "Ciaccona" sounded well but not quite in style. Where I part company with the interpreters is in the Haendel-Halvorsen "Passacaglia"; the very skillful Halvorsen arrangement is for violin and viola, here it was transmogrified for violin, cello and strings (with Ciociola and Amadio); it sounded bloated. Happiness returned with the final piece, Sarasate´s "Introduction and Tarantella", where the splendid violinist was Granillo.
Encores: a Purcell piece; the last movement of Vivaldi´s "Winter" Concerto" and a curious version of the slow movement of Vivaldi´s Concerto for two mandolins played pizzicato by violins.
We know little about Romanian musical life, so I welcome the joint debut of the Bucharest Symphony Orchestra and its recently named French conductor, Benoit Fromanger. It´s a very young organism, founded in 2007. It would have been more representative of the country´s tradition to bring the Bucharest Philharmonic or their Radio Orchestra. But the BSO showed very positive aspects, apart from minor fluffs: they play with concentration and brio and their technical level is pretty good.
Fromanger was violinist before studying conducting with Gergiev and Reuter in Berlin. He proved effective and clear, though not subtle. The programming was poor: two Dvorák standards ("Carnival" Overture and the Ninth Symphony, "New World") and in sandwich Tchaikovsky´s Violin Concerto, with the debut of a talented 31-year old German violinist, Erik Schumann. He played very nicely, with clean mechanism, though his phrasing was a bit too sentimental. He did a good encore, a Bach sarabande. The orchestra´s encore was a light piece called "The gypsies" (composer?) played twice(!) bringing off the showman in Fromanger. Bad idea: nothing Romanian during the whole concert.For Buenos Aires Herald