The free Mozarteum Midday Concerts, generally on Wednesdays at 1 p.m., have reached the enviable 54th. Birthday, still providing high quality music for multitudes, in recent years at the Gran Rex. Pro: its great capacity; con: the poor acoustics that iron out brilliance and soften the sound; but at least this is better than excessive resonance, such as the Main Hall of the Facultad de Derecho UBA, another source of seasonal free concerts (in that case on Saturday afternoons).
The Cuarteto Gianneo is, along with the Petrus and the Buenos Aires, one of our best string quartets. The players: Luis Roggero and Sebastián Masci, violins; Julio Domínguez, viola; and Matías Villafañe, cello. They have a special interest in Argentine composers, witness their name. On this concert they presented the sole String Quartet (1948) by Carlos Guastavino, mislaid for many years and recovered and edited recently by Masci, Tomás Ballicora and Lucio Bruno-Videla; the Cuarteto Gianneo premièred it in 2012. Music in the larger forms wasn´t the strong point of Guastavino, essentially a melodist of refined traditional harmony. This four-movement Quartet is weak in structure but easy on the ear, citing such famous songs of his as "Pueblito, mi pueblo" and "Se equivocó la paloma"; the players transmitted it with high involvement.
A tough score completed the programe: Brahms´ First Quartet, Op.51 Nº1, is closely argued, tense, masterful, difficult and long (35´). A very musical traversal from all concerned but a bit lacking in sheer energy. The encore certainly contrasted: Piazzolla´s "La muerte del ángel" in Bragato´s arrangement.
Although it was a replacement for the originally announced Orquesta Beethoven Academy under Ricardo Sciammarella´s leadership, I was glad to have a chance to hear the Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil Nacional José de San Martín, new name of the Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil Libertador San Martín, founded in 1994 by Mario Benzecry following the famous Abreu Venezuelan model. It now has the national subsidy it lacked for so long, hence the new appellation.
Although I heard it in recent years at the Facultad de Derecho, it was hard to discount the immense distortions of the acoustics; at the Gran Rex the sounds may be slim but they are truer. First we heard the often played surviving Dance from the opera "Huemac" (1916) by Pascual de Rogatis, a pretty good piece from one of our pioneer composers; it was nicely done under the precise conducting of Ezequiel Silberstein, Adjunct Conductor of the Orchestra and a Benzecry disciple.
And then, the big challenge of Rimsky-Korsakov´s "Scheherazade", this time under Benzecry. The magnificent suite was very carefully conducted and played, with only tiny hesitations that mattered little; the 72-member organism sounded concentrated and serious, with several fine solos, and the climaxes were encompassed firmly. The score is virtuosic and the San Martín isn´t quite that, but on this showing it marks a considerable improvement (maybe a welcome consequence of the subsidy) and Maestro Benzecry, who has worked so hard to maintain this project alive during almost two decades, is to be commended.
Benzecry imitated Dudamel and his Bolívar Orchestra: the encore was played with overclothes evoking the Argentine flag (the colorful Venezuelans make quite a show with theirs), although the music was French: Offenbach´s Can-can from "Orpheus in the Underworld".
Another case of perseverance is Chopiniana, the yearly second semester parade of pianists organized by Martha Noguera. The last concerts were offered at the First Floor Hall of the Palacio Paz (Círculo Militar), with rather good acoustics, an improvement on the very resonant Ground Floor Oval Room, beautiful but bad for music. Unfortunately the announced Viennese Manfred Wagner-Artzt cancelled, but the day was saved by a responsible veteran Argentine pianist of vast trajectory: Néstor Zulueta. As often happens with many talented local players, they don´t find enough engagements to make viable a career as concert pianist, although they have the means to do it, and so they become professors and give sporadic concerts. Such is Zulueta´s case, who showed himself techincally and stylistically able to give very adequate accounts of a well-varied and exacting programme: Brahms´ Caprices Op.76 Nos. 1 and 5, Ravel´s "Alborada del Gracioso" (Nº 4 of "Miroirs") and that variegated Schumann marvel, "Carnaval". The encore, more Ravel: "Oiseaux tristes" (Nº 2 of "Miroirs").
Due to a collision of events, I couldn´t hear Polish pianist Marian Sobula´s recital dedicated to his compatriots (Paderewski, Bielecki, Szymanowski and Chopin). But Noguera herself gave an impressive closing concert, where the 70-year old petite artist showed that age hasn´t diminished her fantastic mechanism and stamina. Chopin in the First Part: the early virtuosic Rondo Op.16 and the Andante spianato and Polonaise brillante Op.22, both played with ease except for minimal hitches in the Polonaise.
The Second Part was mostly Spanish, and it started with a Manuel de Falla masterpiece: his "Fantasía Baética", an imaginative Andalusian evocation ("Baetica" was the Roman name for it) played with stunning command. Then, a rarity, three agreeable (but no more) pieces by the unknown Ángel Barrios (1882-1964), also Andalusian: "Suite La suerte", "En las cuevas del Darro" (a stream close to Granada´s Alhambra) and "Albaycinera" (on a Granada borough). And then, the spicy "Triana" by Albéniz.
The dessert in this musical meal proved worth waiting for: a very accurate version in the right tempo of that almost unplayable colorful piece by Balakirev, "Islamey"; few play it because few can; she can. The encore: Chopin´s First Waltz.For Buenos Aires Herald