As I wrote months ago, Summer is musically a desert and I don´t believe in seasonal culture. January was indeed a Sahara, but in February´s second fortnight a couple of oases alleviated the overwhelming sand. The Usina del Arte programmed a few classical concerts along with other activities, and the open-air Plaza del Vaticano (alongside the Colón) showed DVDs (mostly foreign) of concerts, opera and ballet in a big screen. The Colón Resident (Estable) Orchestra gave a light pop concert very late in February at the Amphitheatre of the Parque Centenario.
Come March, and things began to come to life. I have already referred to the Beethoven symphonies by the B.A.Phil. The National Symphony (Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional, OSN) started their usual pre-season concerts at the Stock Exchange (Bolsa de Comercio), whose big entrance hall is too resonant but serviceable. They began with a session conducted by Javier Logioia Orbe with an interesting programme. But before I go on, some paragraphs on the current situation of the OSN.
The OSN has a great dilemma this year. If all goes well, on May 25 "The Whale" ("La Ballena") will be inaugurated. That´s the nickname for the new Concert Hall that will be a part of the wholesale transformation of the Correo Argentino´s old building into a multiuse Cultural Center. But will it be a symbolic inauguration and after a precarious first concert months will pass before the real thing? That has been so often the case with announcements of this kind that we Argentines have become distrustful on such matters (and on many others).
And here´s the dilemma: during the last decade "home" for the OSN has been the Auditorio de Belgrano. What would I do in this situation? Frankly, I would hire the Auditorio for at least three months, just to be sure that I won´t be left without a concert hall. On the other hand, the Orchestra had hopes that they would be able to have at the new Cultural Center a permanent place for their rehearsals, but it seems that they will be confined (as they have for decades) to the eleventh floor of the Annex of the teatro Cervantes, barely acceptable. Time will tell.
Anyway, this first concert on March 13 showed the OSN in good form, under the skilled hands of Logioia. It began with a beautiful and difficult score, Dvorák´s Violin Concerto, much less played than the one for cello. The soloist was one of the second violins of the orchestra, Martín Fava, who, as often happens in our better orchestras, is quite capable of doing proficient solo work. He showed himself in command of the considerable technical difficulties and gave a satisfactory musical reading, correctly accompanied by his colleagues.
I disliked a ten-minute world première by the Rosarino composer Marcelo Ajubita, whose title, "A noisy rocket" (in English in the original) proved an exact description. Written for string quartet, string orchestra and percussion including bells, it´s an example of the trendy sound-based scores to the almost total exclusion of other parameters. I suppose that the UNTREF Quartet played well but for me these experiments are sterile.
I have loved the Elgar Enigma Variations since their Argentine première by Malcom Sargent back in 1958, and I was pleasantly surprised by the carefully considered reading by Logioia and an orchestra on its toes, giving the right sense to each contrasting variation.
One of the better ideas of former Colón Director García Caffi has been the series of Sunday morning free concerts called "Intérpretes argentinos", twice a month. I skipped the initial one, for I have heard the Camerata Bariloche many times playing Vivaldi´s hit "The Four Seasons", but I was attracted by the Twentieth-century programme combining violin, clarinet and piano. The players are all Colón artists: Eduardo Ludueña is a member of the B.A. Phil; Carlos Céspedes is first desk of the Orquesta Estable; and Guillermo Salgado is a répétiteur of the opera staff.
Both the clarinet player and the pianist are first-rate, with Ludueña technically good and tasteful but lacking in enough volume and presence. It was a very pleasant survey of interesting composers in rarely heard pieces: Milhaud´s charming Suite for the three instruments; Poulenc´s bittersweet Sonata for clarinet and piano; Hindemith´s severe Sonata for violin and piano Op.11 N º 1; and Khachaturian´s folksy Trio for the above combination. The encore was a fragment from Stravinsky´s "L´histoire du soldat". A pity so many applaud between movements; and small kids shouldn´t be at the Colón.
A particularly instructive night was offered at the Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo within a cycle called "Museos en vivo", for it gave music lovers a chance to hear a true fortepiano, a Viennese instrument from around 1830. In fact, a late period for this type of early piano, which was at its best during Mozart´s time. By 1830, the pianoforte (our current piano) was fully in use, with its much bigger sound and strength. Under the hands of Carlos Gubert (an Argentine who lives in Italy) it was an extremely agreeable experience. Abetted by the excellent Gabriel Pérsico (wooden flute) and the very musical cellist María Jesús Olóndriz, they offered a typical programme of music dated 1788 to 1810: Haydn´s Trio Hob.XV Nº 15, Hummel´s Sonata for flute and piano Op.50 and Pleyel´s Sonata for trio Op.16 Nº2. Almost untrodden ground here.
For Buenos Aires Herald