sábado, agosto 22, 2015

Mozarteum: strange programming from Barenboim

            As you probably know, it was the Mozarteum Argentino that brought Daniel Barenboim back to his home country decades ago, leading the Orchestre de Paris. As the years went by, it developed into a strong lien that eventually interested the Colón as an institution and the Festivals began.  They are separate from  the Mozarteum, but Barenboim keeps the relationship alive and he gives WEDO (West-Eastern Divan Orchestra) concerts with them.

            As happened last year, the Mozarteum programming didn´t quite convince me. In 2014 he brought two premières of young Israeli and Palestinian composers and I found them rather weak. This season he gave us two unlikely partners: 50 minutes of Pierre Boulez in the First Part and 40 of pristine Mozart in the second.  And we had groups from the WEDO, not the whole orchestra. Of course this flexibility can have its good points, but as he did something similar in a Colón Festival concert, I believe Barenboim overdoes it.

            In fact the conductor had premièred "Dérive II" by Boulez five years ago at an incredible free Midday Concert at the chockfull Gran Rex: three thousand people listening to the most complex avantgarde French composer! At the time he preceded it by the much shorter "Dérive I". The importance of a misplaced accent: this year in press releases and in the hand programme we read "Dérivé "  instead of the true title, "Dérive II".  It happens that "dérivé" means derivative, but "dérive" connotes drift. Yes, the terms have their relationship but they aren´t quite the same.

            Anyway, "Dérive II" is a colossal piece of which there are two versions (yes, two "Derive II"): one lasts 25 minutes and the other doubles it. It is written for 11 instrumebts: marimba and vibraphone in opposite sides, piano, three strings (violin, viola and cello), three woodwinds (English horn, clarinet in A, bassoon), one brass (horn in F) and harp. It makes for a rich and varied texture that allows the composer to show his timbric virtuosity.

            The basis of it are six notes that correspònd to the surname Sacher (great conductor) in German: Eb, A, C, B natural, E and D. He expands chords based on these notes "dividing, dispersing and multiplying"  (Norman Ryan) in ever changing drifting. An "exuberant active music" marked "très rapide" with very little breathing spaces. Although theoretically there´s no limit to "continuous expansion", it´s a piece of music, not the universe, and I do think the composer would have been wiser to keep it to 25 minutes: he doesn´t imitate others, he is always himself, but there´s too much of it for he doesn´t have the infinite variety of Mahler, e.g.  He doesn´t bore (Feldman or Sciarrino do) but he exhausts people.

             I  can´t quite agree with Barenboim when he calls Boulez  "one of the most important and revolutionary composers of the XXth and the XXIst Centuries", but he is a vital "chef de file" of total serialism. He is now 90 and a great friend of Barenboim; but as a homage it would have been enough to première "Sur incises",as he did a week ago.

            As happened in 2011, the young and committed players of the WEDO responded with great professionalism to the strong conducting of Barenboim, especially the marimba player Lev Loftus, identified here but not when he played his part in Bartók Sonata for two pianos and percussion. And the oboist in the second part was also identified but not the members of the whole orchestra; is the security of twelve players less important than that of the others? Of course not. When will this absurdity end?

            The Second Part provided continuous pleasure. Mozart´s only Oboe Concerto, K.314, at Salzburg when he was 21 for a young Italian player of the Camerata, Giuseppe Ferlendis. This lovely creation was later transcribed for flute as the composer´s Second Concerto for that instrument. I personally prefer the oboe´s touching color.  It was very beautifully played by Cristina Gómez Godoy, whom I surmise to be Colombian or Venezuelan, not Israeli or Palestinian as most of her colleagues. She has  very precise articularion, fine dynamic control and exquisite taste in her phrasing. The three cadenzas were in style.

             The Orchestra provided a gossamer tapestry perfectly in tune, conducted by a Barenboim that passed from the violent movements on Boulez to simple and sensitive gestures for Mozart. We heard strings, curiously two oboes (just accompanying) and two horns.

            And then a surprise: Barenboim said "We are playing the encore before the final piece", and so it was: a charming Schumann Romanza for oboe and piano (Gómez Godoy and himself); one of the three in Op.94.

            It is rather an anomaly to hear the famous Mozart Serenade Nº 13, "A little Night Music", at the end of a symphonic concert (we expect to hear the complete orchestra), and also to have the sound of the full string section for it is generally played with smaller groups, but all went well: the strings were fully committed, with a firm and tasteful color, and  in tune, playing with total homogeneity. Barenboim´s reading was of the best orthodoxy. Indeed, although some players seemed to be searching for scores, there was no orchestral encore. But they had given us about 94 minutes of music during the night.

            Blessedly, prudently, and contradicting initial announcements, Boulez was played first, and then Mozart...

For Buenos Aires Herald 

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