The Barenboim tsunami forced a rare fact: two subscription concerts of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic in the same week, Tuesday and Thursday, both led by its Principal Conductor, Enrique Arturo Diemecke, naturally at the Colón.
The first concert had a mishap that fortunately was solved: the Phil´s regular piano tuner, Ricardo Quintieri, fell ill at the last moment, but a replacement could be found. However, the two parts were inverted (announced by Diemecke): initially we heard Rimsky-Korsakov´s "Schéhérezade", and after the interval, Brahms´ Piano Concerto Nº 2, with the debut of the Korean Kun Woo-Paik.
Rimsky´s opus is, quite simply, his very best. It dates from 1888, and as the Brahms Concerto was written in 1881, we had two amazingly different and famous scores from the same period. The Russian composer´s inspiration was always kindled by fantasy and romance, and his double skill in harmonisation and orchestration found in the "Thousand and One Nights" the ideal source. Yes, I know, Rimsky´s music is adapted in the current TV Turkish hit of the same name. But it has never lost its popularity.
This is a very difficult and brilliant score with many soloists; fortunately the Phil is up to the requirements and except for some horn fluffs the playing was very satisfactory both in the climactic orchestral moments and in the abundant solos. Kudos to the following artists: concertino Pablo Saraví (the melodies correspond to Schéhérezade), Claudio Barile (lovely tone from his flute), Mariano Rey (clarinet), Natalia Silipo (oboe), Gabriel La Rocca (flute), Fernando Ciancio (trumpet), Carlos Nozzi (cello) and the second trombone (curiously it is the second, not the first, that plays the cruel theme of the Sultan).
And of course this is ideal material for the extroversion and professionalism of Diemecke. Just one cavil: he distorts the melody of "The Young Prince and the Young Princess" by phrasing very slowly the two initial notes.
On this evidence, Kun Woo-Paik, who looks in his fifties, is a very accomplished artist. The Brahms Second is, of course, a towering masterpiece, and unless you are a world-class pianist, don´t attempt it. Massive chords, swift passages, an unassailably solid construction that needs absolute clarity of mind from the interpreter, and a total control of the constant irregular values (four notes in the right hand against three in the left, e.g.) are some of the hurdles that must be overcome.
Child prodigy, afterwards a product of the Juilliard School, a disciple of the great Kempff, Paik has recorded the complete concerti of Rachmaninov, Chopin and Prokofiev and is now engraving the integral Beethoven Sonatas. A redoubtable career indeed. Paik played with sure command at all times. Nevertheless communication wasn´t total; was it because he wasn´t quite comfortable with the piano, although to my ears it sounded well? Or because the orchestra was no more than good? Somehow the sacred fire was missing. But make no mistake, Paik is quite a pianist and I would welcome him back.
Both Jan Sibelius and Carl Nielsen were born in 1865, so Diemecke, following his habitual programming policy, is paying homage to both in their sesquicentennial. As I deeply admire these great composers (Finnish and Danish) I was happy to attend this concert that started with Sibelius´ "Karelia Suite" and ended with Nielsen´s Fourth Symphony, "The Inextinguishable". In the middle, what is the most accomplished score by Rachmaninov, the "Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini", with pianist Sergio Tiempo.
"Karelia" is an early work (1893), and it comes from the ten numbers of the incidental music for "a festival and lottery to help education in the province of Viipuri (Karelia)". That region was in danger of being absorbed by Russia and Sibelius was living there; hence the positive and patriotic stance of both the first and third movements. And the ruminative Ballad interlaces two subjects with strange counterpoints. Diemecke and the orchestra did a very effective job.
Rachmaninov´s "Rhapsody" is in fact a theme (Caprice Nº 24) with, yes, 24 variations! With extraordinary imagination it goes from coruscating brilliance to unabashed singability and manages to somehow quote the Dies Irae no less than three times. As I expected, Sergio Tiempo was fantastic in all the fast fragments; his facility is unbelievable. But he was completely arbitrary in his neglect of note values during the famous Variation Nº 18, very gooey in his hands. Diemecke and the Phil collaborated valiantly in this arduous piece.
I wasn´t happy with Tiempo´s encore, "Capulets and Montagus", from Prokofiev´s "Romeo and Juliet": his version was rough and with some mistakes, which surprised me from such a virtuoso player.
Gradually Buenos Aires is knowing better the genius of Carl Nielsen, Denmark´s foremost composer, but we still lack the premières of Symphonies Nos. 1 and 6. Diemecke opted for the Fourth (1915), maybe his most important, although the Third and the Fifth are very close in quality. The Fourth, like Vaughan Williams´ , is a war symphony of great impact. "Music is life, and as life, inextinguishable", so said the composer.
Based on the concept of "progressive tonality", very chromatic, there´s in it both a battle of tonalities and in the last movement, of two pairs of tympani placed at the back on opposite sides. It is intense music, full of incident and contrast. Diemecke understood it fully and a collaborative orchestra allowed him to obtain a persuasive interpretation.
For Buenos Aires Herald