Musical life in Buenos Aires is unbelievably intense and every week I have the same dilemma: what to choose and what to discard. In this article I will cover a marvelous concert in which we had the rare occasion of hearing all six motets by Johann Sebastian Bach, the presentations of I Solisti di Pavia led by cellist Enrico Dindo and of two Russians with the Buenos Aires Philharmonic.
I give pride of place to the Bach motets simply because taken as a whole they are enormously important, a monument of the best Baroque, and its interpretation by the Grupo de Canto Coral directed by Néstor Andrenacci and La Barroca del Suquía under the leadership of Manfredo Kraemer was memorable. Mind you, I may be influenced by personal experience: back in 1955, still a teenager, I heard four of these motets in three August concerts by Bach´s own choir, the Thomanerchor of Leipzig, under Günther Ramin, and the impact was so great that I bought the six motets in two records by this group in Archiv.
The motets were apparently written between 1723 and 1729 and vary a lot in length, from the almost six minutes of "Lobet den Herrn" to the near nineteen of Jesu, meine Freude. The requirements are sometimes for four-voiced choir but other pieces are for double choir (eight voices). They have instrumental accompaniment but only as support.
The texts come from Psalms, Isaiah, Romans, Luther and pietist writers. In two of them the structure is complex: eleven numbers in "Jesu, meine Freude", and in "Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied" only three, but with double choir most of the way.
The challenge was met admirably by the GCC (Grupo de Canto Coral), led since its inception in 1973 by Néstor Andrenacci, certainly one of our best choral conductors. The 22 singers are enthusiastic and fully professional, able to vanquish the intricate textures. A caveat: it wasn´t historicist in one sense: in the Thomaner the sopranos and contraltos are boys, here they were women.
As to La Barroca del Suquía, it was a true luxury for the instrumental side could be a mere continuo of three or four instruments; here we had five strings, three types of oboe, bassoon and organ; it certainly sounded rich, perhaps too rich. And of course they all are expert players. The acoustics of the packed Central Methodist Church were ideal.
I Solisti di Pavia have been here before and left a good impression. Now they were back for Nuova Harmonia at the Coliseo, led by their founder (they started on December 2001), cellist and conductor Enrico Dindo. The lion´s part was very much its leader´s, for no less than three scores had him as soloist, and he proved to be one of the best Italian cellists: the sound rich and noble, the mechanism clean, plus good taste and adaptation to different aesthetics.
The best score was Carl Philippe Emanuel Bach´s Concerto in A, Wq 172, 1753, originally for harpsichord; this is valuable Late Baroque music of a very personal imprint. It was quite pleasant to hear (perhaps a première) "Une Larme" ("A Tear"), Theme and variations by Rossini from the Ninth Album of his ·"Péchés de Vieillesse" ("Sins of Old Age"), 1857-68, as arranged by Eliodoro Sollima for cello and string ensemble (the original is for cello and "basso", understood in this case as piano); the music is light and charming. And the concert ended with "Le Grand Tango", written by Piazzolla for Rostropovich (he played it here); Dindo substituted the original piano by a string ensemble in his arrangement, very well done. This is substantial and sensitive Piazzolla, devoid of effects.
The group, apart from accompanying Dindo, played on its own, conducted by Dindo, the Third Suite of "Antique Arias and Dances" by Respighi, a beautifully done orchestration of lute originals, and "Chrysanthemums", a melancholy piece by Puccini. Thirteen players , about half from each sex, make up these efficient and disciplined Solisti, the paradoxical name for team players. One moot point: the C.P.E.Bach Concerto specifies a harpsichord in the continuo, here absent.
Encores: a lovely "Ave Maria" by Piazzolla (Dindo as soloist) and with just the cellist J.S.Bach´s Saraband in G from the First Suite.
The Russians with the Phil were conductor Vladimir Lande and pianist Rustem Hayrudinov. Lande had been here with the Lithuanian National Symphony and had done a good job; however, this time I found him uneven. First because his programming wasn´t good: Verdi´s "Nabucco" Overture clashed violently with Tchaikovsky´s Concert Fantasy for piano and orchestra; we needed something like Borodin or Glinka before Tchaikovsky. Furthermore, his Verdi was rushed and loud.
As to the Concert Fantasy, it must be said: it is the poorest of the four works for piano and orchestra written by the composer (the others are the three Concerti). The piano part is tremendously difficult but vacuous, and it includes a gigantic nine-minute cadenza completely out of proportion; the ideas are poor, with some flashes of fast melody and rhythm; and the structure is chaotic. Written in 1884, it´s a mere vehicle for a virtuoso, and at least we had one in Hayrudinov: he was fleet and accurate. His encore was the turbulent Rachmaninov Prelude op. 23 Nº7.
A correct version -no more- of Brahms´ Third Symphony closed a lackluster evening.
For Buenos Aires Herald