I always grow melancholy when the time arrives to write my column on the vanishing final concerts of the season. For to me culture isn´t a seasonal matter, and I get angry when I think of the gloomy musical desert of the next two months. Last year at about this time I analyzed this phenomenon and gave some hints of how this absence might be mitigated, but nothing has happened. Europe is full of Summer festivals, we have none. Not even something I dislike but is better than nothing: open air amplified concerts. So this account of two recent concerts is a goodbye to live music for a long time (I do hope that something unforeseen will prove me a bad prophet).
Patricia Pouchulu is an enthusiastic personality long active as concert organiser. She founded La Bella Música, dedicated to cycles of concerts or special events. It was born in December 2003 with Haydn´s oratorio "The Creation" and during several seasons it presented important choral-symphonic projects, featuring such pieces as "L´enfance du Christ" (Berlioz). Considering the demise of the Asociación Wagneriana, those concerts filled a gap and were eagerly awaited.
However, the orientation changed since 2011, when Pouchulu conducted at the Avenida (the venue since then) Beethoven´s "Pastoral Symphony" and Vivaldi´s "The Four Seasons". Beethoven and Mendelssohn in 2012, and Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky in 2013, preceded this year´s concert, with Beethoven´s Fifth Piano Concerto, "Emperor" (with Nahuel Clérici) and Tchaikovsky´s Symphony Nº5. As you can see, four composers in these four years.
Guided by Pedro Calderón, Carlos Vieu and Lucía Zicos in conducting technique, she participated in masterclasses in Berlin with Michail Jurowski (2009), had experience in Moscow conducting the Russian National Orchestra (2011) and in Vilnius (Latvia), 2012-13. She has been a good learner and exhibits in her concerts clear orthodox gestures with no exaggeration.
Conducting is a hard profession for you only progress if you can be frequently in front of an orchestra. That only happens in Argentina if you are Principal Conductor somewhere, even with small concerns. If you are a woman you have to fight with the prejudice that pretends men have stronger character to dominate and persuade as many as a hundred musicians to play music in the way the conductor wants.
However, even if women are still vastly outnumbered in the world (and here), things are gradually changing, and such names as Young or Mälkki in Europe are respected and admired. And here, Zicos is a good example of a talented young artist. Pouchulu has come a bit late in her career to conducting but she shows herself fully committed.
Assembling an orchestra is an expensive affair, even if it is only one concert. Over the years she has lured some first-rate players from the B.A.Philharmonic and the National Symphony and the 63 artists were a first-rate group who seem to have a good connection with Pouchulu. (I was surprised that on the same evening the Phil was playing "The Nutcracker" at the Colón, for that theatre doesn´t easily "lend" players).
This is her great project of the year, and as it comes after the concert season of both the Phil and the NS, it closes the symphonic activity. For the music lover it is a pleasant occasion, done with enthusiasm and professionalism. But of course the fact remains that year after year we hear well-trodden standards. I would ask of her for the next years a judicious mixture of the hits with more innovative material from any time in orchestral history, and the best idea would be to revert at least partially to the choral-symphonic repertoire.
Nahuel Clerici is a young Argentine that lives in Europe, and this was his rentrée. His playing was careful and his phrasing well considered, but he got confused at the end of the slow movement (wrong chords) and the interpretation was staid, with little imagination. He was well accompanied. He gave two Scriabin Etudes as encores, but it was rather embarrassing for the applause had died out before the first one.
Tchaikovsky´s Fifth Symphony is of course a masterpiece and a challenge, and I have to acknowledge that Pouchulu offered a meritorious interpretation abetted by very decent playing. She observed the score meticulously and firmly. I do hope that she will get opportunities to conduct with some frequency outside La Bella Música for she needs
the flexibility that only comes with practice.
She decided to offer an encore (not a common practice with B.A.-based orchestras), and curiously she offered the "Waltz of the Flowers" from "The Nutcracker" almost at the same time as the Colón.
Just a week before, La Bella Música presented the last of its concerts at the Sofitel (Soirées Musicales Premium). Two well-grounded artists of vast career presented an attractive programme. They were Sebastián Masci (violin) and Orlando Milláa (piano) and they concentrated on sonatas: Brahms´ introspective Nº 2, Turina´s rarely done "Sonata Española Nº 1" and a late Schumann opus, his First Sonata for violin and piano, soemwhat dense but with interesting moments. The encore: Piazzolla´s "Adiós Nonino" in an excellent arrangement by José Bragato (who is now 99!). The playing, although not note-perfect, had conviction and knowledge of styles.
For Buenos Aires Herald