The last concert of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic had some curious characteristics: a) It was much too short: just 56 minutes. There was surely room for an extra score. As the main piece was Mozart´s last symphony, it would have been quite interesting to put as initial score one of the not-so-long Haydn symphonies such as Nº 85, "La Reine". b) The whole programme employed half the orchestra! c) The two scores for oboe had just strings as accompaniment in Vaughan Williams´ Oboe Concerto, and strings plus piano in Ramiro Gallo´s Small Concerto.
VW´s score is endearing and, in Claudia Guzmán´s precise words, "luminously bucolic". With its typically English modal harmonic language and a sense of texture in the strings reminiscent of his famous Fantasy on a theme of Tallis, it provides plenty of possibilities for the soloist, both expressively and technically. Garrote is very proficient but I find his tone rather thin, without the roundness needed by many passages. Conductor Roberto Paternostro accompanied well.
It was the oboist that contacted Ramiro Gallo and suggested that he would like to have a short concert piece from him. It is an unassuming, tango-tinged score, contrasting in eight minutes a rhythmic theme with a melodic one. Pleasant though hardly memorable, it was nicely played.
But there was a big positive surprise in the Second Part, with a magnificent interpretation of Mozart´s Symphony Nº 41, "Jupiter". Paternostro, who these days has been conducting a rather wan "Falstaff", showed a different face in a perfectly rehearsed, completely sane, forceful without harshness interpretation, abetted by a B.A.Phil absolutely on its toes. That incredible fugal last movement, to my mind the most extraordinary orchestral piece Mozart ever composed, had the best execution I have heard for ages. On this showing and other recent triumphs with Diemecke, the Phil is ready for an international tour.
It is always agreeable to hear good children voices, so I welcome the first visit of the Freiburg Cathedral Boys´ Choir conducted by Boris Böhmann. The charming city at the edge of the Black Forest has indeed a fine Cathedral (Münster), and many of the churches in Germany have a tradition of admirable boys´ choirs, especially Leipzig´s Thomanerchor and the Regensburg Domspatzen. Without being in that exalted level, the Freiburg boys showed pure voices and fine training. The choir has in fact the four ranges, as it includes men (tenors and basses).
The programme was sung at the Gran Rex for the Midday Concerts of the Mozarteum and had two dissimilar parts. The first was rather austere: it even started with a Gregorian chant by the men. Then, the lovely Kyrie from Palestrina´s best-known Mass, "Papae Marcelli", a motet by Bruckner, another by Liszt in his mystical stage, a fragment from Wagner´s "Das Liebesmahl der Apostel" ("The Pentecost Feast") and Fauré´s early "Cantique de Jean Racine". All sung with fine intonation and good style under the severe leader Böhmann.
The second section was a complete contrast: an arrangement by Reimund Hess of old German songs called "Andere Städtchen- Andere Mädchen" ("Other peoples- other girls"). Very light and traditional, with piano accompaniment (unidentified), here the singers and the conductor unbended. The first encore was in the same vein, whilst the second seemed to be their habitual "signature piece", naming the "Vaterland" and Breisgau, the county of Freiburg. It was heartwarming to hear the joy of about 800 kids in the audience loudly cheering.
The Chopiniana cycle at the Palacio Paz went on with two concerts: one was all-Chopin and brought the debut of the Polish pianist Michal Karol Szymanowski; yes, almost identical with the composer, but no kin! The other was a varied programme by Argentine pianist Luis Ascot with no Chopin in the programme.
Szymanowski was born in 1988; he is a modern Chopinian: no day-dreaming, but clear, forceful projection when needed and expression without mawkishness. His splendid technique is tightly under control. The hand programme was very untidy and he played the pieces in a different order. First, the lovely Barcarolle showed that he has a singing line. Then, two Mazurkas (Nos.53 and 49, unidentified in the programme ) were, of course, authentically Polish in his interpretation. Aferwards, he was a powerhouse in the savage Etudes Op.25 Nos. 10 and 11. And he closed the first part with a sparkling Waltz Nº 5.
The Third Sonata went mostly very well, except some doubtful rhythms in the Largo and in the last movement a moment of confusion and some mistakes. The encores were rarities brilliantly played: the virtuosic Concerto Waltz Op.3 by Josef Wienawski (brother of the more famous Henryk) and the fierce "Toccata" (from "Toccata, Chorale and Fugue", 1955) by Milosz Magin.
The Argentine Luis Ascot has had a vast career, especially in Geneva and Brazil. His eclectic programme started with the stark First Volume of Ginastera´s "Preludios americanos", admirably played, but an unlikely partner for Mozart´s Sonata Nº5, interpreted with nice style. I part company with the pianist in Schumann´s "Papillons", played with too much rubato and with annoying anticipations of chords by the left hand, producing unwanted syncopations.
The Brazilian Second Part was pure pleasure, including four pieces by Villa Lobos and five by Ernesto Nazareth, Brazilian tango, Waltz and Polka, charming rhythmical music written during the early Twentieth Century. In the encores, more Brazil and a sensitive Nocturne N` 20 by Chopin.