miércoles, octubre 08, 2014

Videla and Opitz, protagonists of our musical scene

            A musical scene is made up of myriads of people, but some of them have important trajectories as leaders of a special project. This article focuses on two of them; there are of course others.

            Mario Videla was and is the very soul of the Bach Academy. For an astonishing 32 years he has kept alive the Academia Bach de Buenos Aires, inspired originally on the Bach Academy led by Helmuth Rilling (frequent guest here). The greatest Baroque composer was undoubtedly Johann Sebastian Bach, and the essence of his vast composing is found in the more than  two hundred cantatas that have come down to us (many others have been, alas, lost). And the Academy has made it a point, year after year, of prermièring at least two cantatas, so that music lovers are enormously in Videla´s debt for such marvelous discoveries.

            Videla collaborated with the famous Bach Festivals under Karl Richter presented in the Sixties by Amigos de la Música and as organist, harpsichordist and conductor has kept J.S.B. as the center of his musical life, although of course he has also been the longtime Artistic Director of Festivales Musicales, an institution that was born after Amigos´ demise with the idea of prolonging some basic aspects, especially the constant search for great scores that have never been played here.

            I have to be sincere, about a decade ago Festivales lost its way and started to be less interesting and adventurous; at the same time sponsorship steadily declined. Videla told us that from next year on, the Academy would be called Amigos de la Academia Bach and will have associates; he didn´t mention Festivales, and I interpret it as a new situation of independence, for this year the hand programme still prints "Organized by Festivales Musicales".

            This concert, as so many others through more than three decades, was offered at the Central Methodist Church, an old friend of splendid acoustics. There were two high points: a magnificent Concerto in D minor, Wq22, by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, the J.S.Bach son who saved most of his father´s scores and that was in his own right one of the great figures of his time, going all the way from the Late Baroque to Late Classicism impregnated by the the Pre-Romantic wave of "Sturm und Drang". Twenty-five minutes of deeply impressive music that goes beyond the typical flute concerto of the day in its audacious harmonies and imaginative interplays. And it had a wonderful performance from an inspired flutist (Claudio Barile) and the Soloists of the Bach Academy.

            As usual we had the erudite comments by Videla, and we discovered the astonishing Cantata Nº 103 by J.S.B, called "Ihr werdet weinen und heulen" ("You will cry and lament").  It is short (17 minutes) but it includes the fantastic inventions of the initial Chorus (an instrumentation with originally a sopranino recorder, here replaced by a piccolo, plus two lovely instruments, the well-named oboes d´amore, and the habitual strings and continuo) with advanced chromaticisms in the word "heulen" ("lamenting") and a solo baritone (quite unusual in an opening chorus), and a strong tenor aria with trumpet obligato. The players were all admirable, including trumpeter Fernando Ciancio. The singers correct, no more: Periferia Vocal was the choir conducted by Pablo Piccinni (also baritone), and other soloists were the mezzosoprano Cecilia Arellano and the tenor Mauro Di Bert, who has a strange timbre but handles the florid singing well.

            The least interesting thing was another aspect of C.P.E.Bach: two rather conventional short motets  (premièred) from his Hamburg church production; apart from some dissonances (not quite solved by the Choir) the rest was pretty tame.

            For more than twenty years Guillermo Opitz has been the Artistic Director of the Fundación Música de Cámara, a singular institution that gives its concerts in palaces, residences and embassies. This time the venue was  that jewel of San Fernando, the Palace Sans Souci. And with a fascinating idea: a whole concert dedicated to Richard Strauss´  Lieder in the year of the 150th anniversary of his birth. It´s the first time in my long life that I hear such a musical session.

            Maestro Opitz is the last of the line of influential German teachers that came to B.A. after WWII. The hand programme included an impressive and enormous list of singers and pianists that have attended his master classes since 1993: no doubt he has been essential in the maturing of talents that in many cases have had important careers. A typical feature of these seasons of the FMC is a song programme (not necessarily Lieder) on a special subject; this one was typical: eight singers and seven pianists gave a conspectus of Strauss´ long Lieder career: we heard 24 contrasting pieces where both the vocal line and the very personal piano writing provided constant pleasure.

            Two artists already have ongoing careers: Oriana Favaro (soprano) and Walter Schwarz (bass). Of the others I was well impressed by the vocal quality of soprano Laura Sangiorgio and tenor Rodrigo Ortiz, the expressiveness of Anahí Fernández Caballero (a stunning beauty, by the way) and the natural delivery of baritone Gabriel Vacas. I  found Milagros Rey (mezzosoprano) a bit green in the control of high notes and Roxana Schiavi not quite comfortable in the difficult florid music she sang (the Brentano Lieder)  The pianists were generally good (though the instrument is rather poor) especially Matías Galíndez, Pierre Blanchard and Sebastián Achenbach.

For Buenos Aires Herald

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