miércoles, noviembre 12, 2014

Richard Strauss and Verdi reign as seasons close

            The Buenos Aires Philharmonic under Enrique Arturo Diemecke closed its successful season with a valuable all-Richard Strauss concert. And the Ensamble Lírico Orquestal tackled the Verdi Requiem to finish their cycle.

            Diemecke´s affinity with Strauss has been appreciated throughout the musical year (150th anniversary of the composer´s birth). Indeed, his total command of the difficult material was again fundamental for the final result, although the Phil wasn´t quite at its best.

            Prior to the music Diemecke dedicated the session to his young assistant Carlos Bertazza, who died some weeks ago and left a lasting memory of musicianship and decency. As Bertazza helped prepare the concerts and took care of many logistics aspects of the Phil, he will have to be replaced for next season.

            As I read the hand programme I was surprised that the Oboe Concerto was announced as the first work; Diemecke put things right by starting with "Metamorphoses", a melodious contrapuntal homage to the Munich National Theatre, destroyed by bombs; hence the quote from the Funeral March of Beethoven´s "Heroic" Symphony.  Written for 23 string soloists, it is a tricky and beautiful score of great melancholy. However, all 23 have to have perfect intonation, and not all did, so there were murky moments.

            Then came the high interpretative point of the concert:  Strauss´ Oboe Concerto was created close in time to the "Metamorphoses" (1945-6) but it inhabits a bucolic, airy, euphonic world. We had a world-class soloist, Lucas Macías Navarro, first oboe of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, and it was pure bliss to hear him, not only for his marvelous technique but for the subtle taste of his phrasing. The Orchestra accompanied well.

            An incredible half-century separates the two aforementioned scores from "Also sprach Zarathustra" ("Thus spoke Zarathustra"), an amazingly complex score inspired by Nietzsche written when the composer was 31 back in 1895. By then his command of orchestration was a wonder of the late Nineteenth Century as well as his enormously intricate language, sensual, rich in harmony, imaginative, contrasted. Although Diemecke´s qualities were again to the fore, the orchestra had some blemishes in the solos, even if many moments had true impact.

            Can it be that the inner turmoil of the theatre had some effect on the players´ concentration? In effect, as happened in the "Elektra" performances, the orchestras are complaining with placards reading "Enough!" ("Basta") and "Dignified Salaries" ("Salarios dignos"). They are right, of course, and this time they have avoided the silly strikes that affect the audiences and turn public opinion against them; instead, they were roundly applauded. 

            Verdi´s mighty Requiem Mass will always be desecrated by a certain sector of the public as much too operatic and dramatic; it is  not sacral, but that doesn´t change the fact that we deal with a masterpiece of immense genius. It is also quite a challenge for all concerned: you need four splendid soloists, a first-rate big choir and a full orchestra who has to solve many complicated passages.  The Ensamble Lírico Orquestal at the Auditorio de Belgrano was quite audacious in programming it.

             So I will use an adjective that recognizes the hard work and competence of all concerned but implies some shortcomings: honorable. Conductor Dante Ranieri was in his youth one of our best lyric tenors, particularly for his  phrasing and sense of style. From 1992 on he has taken up conducting, especially in Medellín (Colombia); but in BA he had conducted mostly operas with small orchestras. So this Requiem meant a step forward and a great challenge for him. The ad-hoc Orquesta del Ensamble Lírico Orquestal numbered 63, enough but not huge, and worked rather well most of the time, apart from trumpet smudges (there are eight!), whilst Ranieri chose good tempi and managed reasonable rapport with the Choir.

            The Coral Ensamble Adultos was led by Gustavo Codina, Artistic Director of the Ensamble; 71 strong, it was attentive and strong, though some voices could be improved.  The soloists were Sonia Schiller (soprano), Laura Cáceres (mezzo soprano), Leonardo Pastore (tenor) and Lucas Debevec (bass). The first was firm in the high range but unpleasant in the lows. The second has two  different registers: a very solid upper range and a middle and low range of rather strange timbre. The tenor didn´t avoid some sentimentalisms but sang with "italianità", and the bass was impressive in his intensity and volume.

            There was a second performance which I didn´t attend; except the tenor the others changed: Silvia Gatti (soprano), Nora Balanda (mezzo soprano), Mario de Salvo (bass); conductor Codina.

            To end, a "review" assisted by poetic justice: as I couldn´t go to an interesting concert by the National Symphony, I went to the rehearsal at the Auditorio de Belgrano, and I enjoyed myself; there´s a good chance that things weren´t very different in the concert proper that same Friday but in the evening. It was the debut of young Croat conductor Miran Vaupotich and he chose two powerful Russian tone poems, neither played often: Rachmaninov´s "The Isle of the Dead", inspired by Böcklin´s famous paintings, and Tchaikovsky´s "Francesca da Rimini", depicting the anguish of Hell for those famous lovers, Paolo and Francesca.

            Two interesting Concertos completed the programme: Werner Tärichen´s for Timpani and Carlos Franzetti´s for clarinet. Marcos Serrano and Mariano Rey were the splendid soloists. Vaupotich impressed me well , he is dynamic and knowledgeable.

 

For Buenos Aires Herald