Fortunately we keep receiving valuable visitors and the concert season certainly benefits in quality. Dresden is one of the most important art cities of Germany and it has sent in recent decades its two premium orchestras: the Staatskapelle and the Philharmonic. Now the latter has paid us its sixth (!) visit under its current Principal Conductor, Michael Sanderling. And, as in the previous five, it is the Mozarteum that brought it to the Colón.
It´s worth recalling those other instances: 1992, conductor Michel Plasson; 2000, Gerd Albrecht; 2002, Roderich Kreile with the Chorus of the Dresden Church of the Holy Cross; 2005 and 2010, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos. So this is one of the foreign orchestras with several visits (a ranking led by the Israel Philharmonic and the New York Philharmonic).
German violinist Carolin Widmann came here before, to offer a concert of modern music, a field of her particular interest (although I don´t share some of her tastes, such as Feldman and Sciarrino). But if her interpretation of Beethoven´s Violin Concerto is a faithful reflection of her ideas about the standard repertoire, I have to say that I was vividly impressed.
Before I go on, a reflection on Michael Sanderling´s very special family; for, you see, his brothers Stefan and Thomas are also conductors, and all three are the sons of a great conductor that never came here, Kurt Sanderling. Michael was born in Berlin, is now in his forties and was long a cello soloist of such star orchestras as Leipzig´s Gewandhaus and Berlin´s Radio Symphony. So he has lived an orchestral life from inside before standing on a podium; he understands their psyche and their personalities. Since the 2011-12 season he is Principal Conductor of the Dresden Phil, and they seem to understand each other very well indeed.
This Saxon Orchestra has 93 players according to the hand programme, and their sound is typically German in its solidity, dark hues, discipline and fine intonation; it also has some admirable soloists, of which I would single out an oboist of exquisite sensibility.
The programme started with a near-première, the charming Little Suite by Witold Lutoslawski, ten lively minutes written in 1951 based on the folk songs and dances of Machov (nowadays a part of the Czech Republic) southwest of Wroclaw; they were played in a lively and precise way, letting us hear the many piquant timbres.
Then, Beethoven´s Violin Concerto, which gave us a première of sorts, for all three cadenzas were written by the violinist; Widmann did a fine job, citing the various themes with plenty of double-stops and within the harmony of Beethoven´s style; she even insinuated in the first two cadenzas the main tune of the Finale. Her playing was subtle and beautiful, with little vibrato but avoiding whiteness, and fine technical accomplishment. She was seconded by an alert and very musical orchestra. Widmann offered as an encore a Bach sarabande.
Few symphonies are so overplayed as Brahms´ First, but I still surrender to such a marvel in a good interpretation, and this was one to remember: quite orthodox, which is alright by me, it showed in the conductor a comprehension of form and a communication with the players that had as an end result a strong Brahms with brio and density.
The encore was questionable: only the fourth part of Rossini´s Overture to "Guillaume Tell", done brilliantly and with showmanship, but I like my pieces whole.
They gave another programme which I didn´t attend, with the same Brahms symphony but with a première from the violinist´s composer brother, Jörg Widmann (the overture "Con brio") and Mendelssohn´s Concerto.
Enrique Diemecke goes from strength to strength in his concerts with the Buenos Aires Philharmonic. The British programme he offered, with the debut of the Taiwanese violinist Ray Chen, was pure pleasure. First, a rarely heard score by Benjamin Britten which I knew from a recording but never had heard it live: the very interesting Violin Concerto, 24 minutes of admirably wrought and very personal music culminating in a splendid Passacaglia. Chen proved quite a find, perfectly in command of the difficult solo part, with a terse, beautifully pure sound. Diemecke accompanied with an orchestra on its toes, in fine conjunction with the violinist. Chen gave a splendid encore, Paganini´s Caprice Nº 21.
And then, that model of orchestration and imagination, Gustav Holst´s "The Planets", now deservedly famous and incredibly advanced for the years of its creation, 1914-16. In an astonishing virtuoso display, conductor and orchestra gave us a memorable execution where all aspects were driven home, from the terrible force of "Mars" to the evanescent "Neptune" with a well-tuned Colón Children Choir under César Bustamante.
Finally, the Hungarian Keller Quartet, in the series Colón Contemporáneo, gave a severe account of a very special programme combining some pieces from Johann Sebastian Bach´s monumental "The Art of Fugue" with scores by György Kurtág, certainly one of the most independent composers nowadays. Born in 1926, he has evolved a style of his own, represented here especially by two ample works made up of small pieces: evoking Schubert, "Six Moments Musicaux" (2005), and the "Officium Breve" of 1989, which includes three homages to Webern. Three wispy short pieces completed the programme: "Secreta", "Aus der Ferne V" and "Ligature" (2 violins); the latter somehow jelled perfectly with the incomplete enormous Bach "Contrapunctus XVIII".
For Buenos Aires Herald