The Lucerne Symphony Orchestra under its Principal conductor James Gaffigan made its local debut in a Nuova Harmonia concert at the Coliseo. Buenos Aires has received in earlier seasons the visit of the accomplished Lucerne Festival Strings.
The Lucerne Symphony is in residence at a building designed by Jean Nouvel and inaugurated in 1998 called the Culture and Congress Center. The orchestra is the oldest in Switzerland, founded in 1806. Except for Mengelberg it hasn´t had starry names as Principal Conductors, and if its roster is the one printed in the hand programme, it is a small orchestra of only 65 players. Notwithstanding this, the sound was full and satisfying, though of course they didn´t play works of heavy orchestration (I don´t think it´s a Mahler or Strauss orchestra).
They concentrated on the Nineteenth Century. I have long loved Weber´s Overture to "Oberon". Gaffigan, a New Yorker born in 1979, proved firm and responsible in his views, and the orchestra played with vigor and subtlety.
Then came the high spot: the wonderful Mendelssohn Violin Concerto brought back to Buenos Aires the talent of Renaud Capuçon, who made his debut here ten years ago at an Argerich Festival. He played with growing intensity, master both of slow "cantabiles" and virtuoso chains of semiquavers, and he was well matched by an attentive orchestra.
But repertory-wise, it was both useful and gratifying hearing again Dvorák´s Sixth Symphony after quite a while, for it is an admirable warm score. Gaffigan has the measure of the score and got a sympathetic reading out of the very competent orchestra. Encores: Brahms´ Hungarian Dance Nº5, and welcome indeed, the rarely programmed slow and dreamy fourth movement of the Dvorák "American Suite".
At a subscription concert of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, conductor Enrique Arturo Diemecke was presented with the distinction of "Outstanding Cultural Personality" by the Legislature, which he certainly deserves. This time his programme was Latin-American and featured his brother Pablo Diemecke (debut) as soloist in the Violin Concerto by Carlos Chávez.
The session started with Astor Piazzolla´s 1969 "Tangazo", one of his best crossover works, 13 minutes in alternating moods; Diemecke showed empathy with his style. The Chávez Concerto was new to me and certainly I can´t remember another performance, although it wasn´t announced as a première. I tend to like his music and he is certainly one of the two most relevant Mexican composers (the other is Silvestre Revueltas). But this 25-minute score has its longueurs along with many attractive passages and would have benefited from some pruning. I found Pablo Diemecke professional but not seductive in his tone; I do think the music needs a more lustrous sound and a more personal reading. Apparently the orchestra played well but I can´t compare as I had no score.
Last year we heard a spectacular performance of "La noche de los mayas" by Revueltas interpreted by the fenomenal Orquesta Simón Bolívar and conducted by the ultra-mediatic Gustavo Dudamel. I can give no higher praise to the B.A. Phil and Diemecke that they were only one step behind, in a splendid execution which allowed the audience to enjoy contrasted, picturesque and evocative music, especially the percussion-dominated "Night of enchantment". I add that José Ives Limantour should be in the hand programme as arranger and organizer of the original Revueltas material for the film of the same name. He did a fine job with this four-part suite retrieved and concocted after the author´s early death.
My last paragraphs concern a small venue that has meant much to music lovers for 22 years, always led by the untiring Susana Braun Santillán: La Scala de San Telmo. Early in the year it didn´t seem sure that she would go on, but she did and I celebrate it. She is presenting nine different shows every week: classical, crossover and popular concerts plus theatre. I was attracted by the programming of last Saturday and I heard two concerts in a row; both were useful and interesting.
The first was called "Galanuras hispánicas", and a trio of artists from Rosario gave us varied Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century works: Spanish songs by Juan de Lima Serqueira (active in Mexico), J.del Vado, Tomás Torrejón y Velasco (Spanish, settled in Lima, Peru, wrote the opera "La Púrpura de la Rosa" in 1701) and José Marín. There were two instrumental pieces by Italians: Domenico Scarlatti, who lived in Spain; Domenico Zipoli, who settled in our Córdoba as a Jesuit priest. And of special interest, three missionary songs in the Mapuche language recopilated by B. Havestadt and three bright and joyful pieces from the Peruvian Códice Trujillo. I especially enjoyed the fine voice and style of soprano Laura Romero; she was accompanied with varied fortune by Alejandra Sottile in a beautiful spinet and by Pablo Ignacio Polito in Baroque guitar and mandoline.
Finally, a salvage operation led by pianist Manuel Massone: music of unknown Argentine composers born between 1820 and 1855, the "lost" generations between Esnaola and Williams. I heard no masterpieces but I enjoyed getting to know, e.g., a Romanza by Alfredo Napoleón, or three pieces by Francisco Hargreaves (author of the first Argentine opera, "La gatta bianca", unfortunately lost), especially the very brilliant Capriccio on the opera "Ruy Blas" by Marchetti. Habanera, waltz, tango, galop, triste, pericón... such were the scores. Best pianists: Massone and Facundo Miranda.
For Buenos Aires Herald