The Buenos Aires Philharmonic is traversing a happy period, with juicy programmes and the consistent fine work of their Musical Director Enrique Arturo Diemecke. I do have some objections: the conductor dominates the season leaving too little time for other artists (except Ira Levin, strongly promoted by the Colón´s Director Pedro Pablo García Caffi); the Phil should offer more concerts, at least 24 (this probably is a restriction imposed by García Caffi, not by Diemecke); and although we get plenty of symphonic Late Romantic blockbusters, there are whole areas of repertoire that are left untouched, especially the Schönberg-Berg-Webern school, or are poorly represented; some programmes have mixed very unlikely partners; many interesting conductors aren´t invited; premières are quite insufficient; second performances too; prices are too high.
By now Diemecke´s tenure is long (nine years, I believe) and there are two indisputable facts: both the orchestra and the public like him. There is an old adage: don´t change if things go well. It has been applied in the United States for many decades, and orchestras have been identified with their conductors (Philadelphia/Ormandy, Boston/Koussevitzky, Cleveland/Szell). Karajan was conductor for life of the Berlin Philharmonic.
But there´s another point of view: Buenos Aires has the possibility of having an artist of similar rank as Diemecke but with different concepts as to repertoire, one that will give us Berg and Hindemith along with Berio or Ligeti, one that will show more interest in Mozart and Haydn, that will seek out the premières we need (we still don´t know essential works from the likes of Delius, Ives, Vaughan Williams, Prokofiev).
Diemecke has admitted that he wants to do more choral-symphonic work (the Phil´s record is very mediocre in recent years) although, as he can not count with the Colón Choir (no way to conciliate their rehearsal hours), he will have to work with either private concerns or with the excellent Coro Polifónico Nacional or the Teatro Argentino´s fine voices. Or course if a new Musical Director would take over, the Colón´s Direction should intervene so that Diemecke would continue to come as guest, for he deserves it.
Indeed, once we tollerate his clownish aspects saluting the audience, the truth is that Diemecke merits to be treated as a very talented and complete musician, with very clear strategy (he is a master of the long lines and structure) and tactical ability (perfect ensemble, clean details) as well as absolutely phenomenal memory. His most recent concert again showed his best qualities in Bruckner´s monumental Eighth Symphony, perhaps the most accomplished from this very personal creator. I have lasting reminiscences of its BA première, by the regretted Franz-Paul Decker (so admired by the Phil´s audience) with the Radio del Estado Orchestra in 1963, and I asked Gerd Albrecht to include it when he made his debut with the Colón Orchestra in April 1973.
Along with these references and some sterling performances I heard in Europe (Klemperer, Blomstedt) I will treasure this Diemecke Eighth, which followed the Novak Edition except for two small cuts in the Finale, for its concentration, fine playing by all concerned, coherence, intelligent tempi and spine-tingling climaxes, as well as beautiful solos in the numerous chamberlike fragments.
Before the interval, we had the rare and welcome chance to hear Richard Strauss´ very late and delicious Duo-Concertino for clarinet, bassoon and strings. Beautifully played by Mariano Rey and Gabriel La Rocca and lovingly accompanied by the conductor, it showed the sunny side of the octogenarian great composer under its best light.
On the other hand, the National Symphony´s Beethoven "Choral" Symphony was an alarming disappointment. Ending the complete symphonies under the NS´ Musical Director Pedro Calderón, the sound was harsh, unbalanced, with plenty of wrong entries or mistakes. Some fragments were better than others, but neither conductor nor orchestra were in a good day (or week). The Coro Polifónico Nacional under Roberto Luvini did well; the lady soloists (soprano Paula Alnerares, mezzo Guadaluype Barrientos) were quite good, but the men were below their usual level (tenor Enrique Folger, bass-baritone Lucas Debevec Mayer).
The NS´dilemma: is Calderón approaching the end of his enormous career, started at 20 (he is now 80)? He doesn´t look physically fit, and considering that we owe him so much through the decades I wonder if the time has come to pronounce him Conductor Emeritus and start looking for a successor. But perhaps it is just a bad patch and he will recover.
Anyway it is a fact that the NS played very well in the following concert, dedicated to great Twentieth-century authors: Béla Bartók´s long and pithy Violin Concerto (44 minutes) and Paul Hindemith´s magnificent Symphony "Mathis the painter" (on the famous Grünewald triptych at Colmar). The young conductor Darío Domínguez gave good, sane readings, fully in command, and the orchestra was transformed.
Plus the amazing Xavier Inchausti, playing with absolute control and intellectual grasp very difficult music, with an objective type of sound that fits Bartók. But in the ample encore, Ysaÿe´s Third Sonata-Ballade, he showed a much juicier sound according to the Late Romantic aesthetics of the admirable piece; it was a masterly peformance.
As to the NS´ future, recently it was confirmed that in May 2015 the new Center at the ex-post Office (Correo) will be finished, with its 2.000-people auditorium, definitive house for the orchestra.
Let´s cross our fingers...
For Buenos Aires Herald