domingo, mayo 11, 2014

A panoply of interesting concerts

            There´s such a multitude of concerts in our city that I´m hard put to keep up. Here´s a selection of worthwhile experiences in recent weeks.

            In Easter Week and for the seventh consecutive year took place "El Camino del Santo-Música Clásica en San Isidro", led since its inception by pianist José Luis Juri. This year each concert was dedicated to one composer. I chose two: Beethoven and Boccherini (the others: Mozart by the Orquesta Académica del Teatro Colón, Brahms by Gintoli and Panizza and Chopin by Lavandera).

            Beethoven was played by Juri, Pablo Saraví (violin) and Gloria Pankaeva (cello) and the venue was the Colegio San Juan el Precursor, which lies just in front of the left side of the Cathedral at San Isidro. You take a walk along two tiled sides of the four enclosing a lovely open-air patio, and you then find yourself in a rather big hall (about 400 capacity?) with pretty decent acoustics.

            The programme varied the textures: the lovely "Spring" Sonata for violin and piano, the "Moonlight Sonata" por piano and the early but splendid Trio Op.1 Nº3, already quite Beethovenian. The "Spring" Sonata was played with much charm and accuracy; the "Moonlight" had a few slight problems but was good; and the Trio was excellent throughout. The ideal encore was new to most of the public: the one-movement Trio in B flat major, G154, WoO39, light and exquisite, dated 1811.

            Luigi Boccherini was a very talented Classicist, one of the best chamber music composers of his time, but his sacred music is little-known; that´s why I was very interested in his Stabat Mater, offered Midday at the Cathedral, which looks beautiful after a well done recent renovation.  The work dates from 1781 in its first version (the one we heard) and lasts 41 minutes.  Boccherini wasn´t dramatic, and although the music is very pleasant to hear, the starker aspects of the text are skimmed over in favor of nicely professional music. It was marvelously sung by Soledad de la Rosa, and very correctly played by the historicist string quintet Tempo Barocco led by violinist Fabrizio Zanella.

            As readers are aware, I am a firm admirer of the Academia Bach, organized by Festivales Musicales, whose very soul was and is Mario Videla, now in its 32nd. Season (!). The venue, as usual, was the Iglesia Metodista Central, with its perfect acoustics. This year the emphasis is put on the relationship between Johann Sebastian and his son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, whose birth tercentenary is being feted. As usual in the Academy´s concerts, Videla gives an explanation of the occasion´s characteristics, and this time he gave learned and fascinating details about the importance of CPE Bach as a composer and as the great custodian of his father´s scores

            The Symphony Wq (the Wotquenne catalog) 182 Nº3, for strings and continuo, is a pure example of the "Sturm und Drang" artistic revolution (think of Haydn´s Symphonies Nos. 44 to 49) with its inklings of the future Romanticism. This CPE style had great influence on Mozart.

            The CPE side continued with two short motets Wq 208 1 and 2 (premiere) with texts by Christian Gellert, a severe poet. The choir was supported by continuo  and the sound has stronger liens to the Baroque than the symphony.

            Finally, the very developed Oboe Concerto Wq 164, with brilliant solo work by that grand veteran, Andrés Spiller. The Soloists of the Academy were in resplendent form throughout this section, and their old friends, the GCC- Grupo de Canto Coral directed by Néstor Andrenacci, were their stalwart and reliable selves in the motets.

            The main glory of the Academy has been the premiere of dozens of Johann Sebastian´s cantatas. They now added a short (17 minutes) but fascinating one, Nº 26, "Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig" ("Oh, how ephemerous, how vain"). The anonymous text is appallingly gloomy ("everything that we see will fall and expire") but the music is marvelous. The initial chorus has an imaginative orchestration with unusual three oboes and an intricate texture, whilst the long tenor aria is a devil of a piece, one of the greatest technical challenges of the Baroque for the singer.

            Tenor Pablo Pollitzer may not have an ingratiating timbre but he does show an amazing command of florid singing, including admirable breath control. The other soloists, from the choir, were in a lower level, but the GCC and the players were very good under the stylish conducting of Videla.

            Curiously someone had the bright idea of offering the National Symphony and the National Youth Choir (Néstor Zadoff) to Videla for a wonderful combination of Carl Philipp Emanuel´s Magnificat and Johann Sebastian´s Easter Oratorio. This happened just days before the Academy´s concert and it came out as a combination of masterpieces sung and played at a high level and as a splendid prelude to the Academy´s cycle.

            One bad point: the resonant acoustics of the church San Benito Abad, an ample venue where only slow music played softly is heard cleanly. I found unnecessary some intercalations of extraneous polyphony by the Coro Nacional de Niños, although they sang nicely. The mixed choir and the orchestra were in very good form under the positive conducting of Videla. Attractive solo singing by de la Rosa, countertenor Pehuén Díaz Bruno and baritone Alejandro Meerapfel, whilst Pollitzer was a bit rough.

For Buenos Aires Herald