In just two weeks our three main orchestras offered free concerts at the Usina del Arte (two) and at the Blue Whale (one). And all three were in pretty good shape. C Let´s start with the Usina and its slow transition with a new team led by Marcelo Panozzo, substituting Gustavo Mozzi who is working at the CCK. He has had important former posts: BAFICI´s Artistic Director (2012-5), editor of Penguin Random House and of La Nación´s ADN magazine, as well as Entertainment editor of Clarín. But nothing that indicates an interest in classical concerts.
Of course, in this case the change of guard is within the same political party, which should make it easy, but up to now things are going very slowly and the logistics leave much to be desired. Item: you will look in vain in their Internet site for a telephone or a mail address.
As to programming, up to now the Usina is saved by the Colón, which may have many faults but it has a yearly programme and a booklet giving all details. What´s relevant and positive is that the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, apart from its subscription series at the Colón, is giving no less than eleven programmes at the Usina, with completely different programmes than the ones at the Colón (last year they were similar, so the new policy is quite a gain). No less commendable is the fact that the Estable (Resident) Colón Orchestra is taken out of the operatic pit and will offer seven concerts at the Usina.
The Usina hand programmes , except for one line that reads "Usina del Arte", are clearly the Colón´s: its authorities are stated there, not the Usina´s, a mere venue. (By the way, they are very poor, with no commentaries on the music played). I had recourse to the Colón to obtain my press tickets for the concert of April 30. Once I arrived at the Usina, I finally got the press contact and the telephone I needed and now things are normal, but it´s an ABC of communication whenever there´s a team change to send a presentation mail to habitual newspaper reviewers.
One of the great mistakes of the Usina in preceding years was that it didn´t have a year schedule: you got the information one month at a time, and generally you were informed, say, about June in May´s last week; hardly the right way to run a concert-giving institution. Up to now, things haven´t changed, and the other non-Colón activities haven´t been interesting in the field of classical music.
Meanwhile, a useful piece of news: a parking lot has just opened. There should also be a system at the Usina to be able to call for cabs, they are quite absent in that zone . And more security: Caffarena is very dark.
But now to the good things. On April 30 Francisco Rettig conducted an attractive combination: Richard Strauss´ "Duetto-Concertino for clarinet, bassoon and orchestra" and the Fantastic Symphony by Berlioz. The Duetto, rarely played here (though it has at least nine recordings), is a charming piece written in 1947 when the composer was 83; completely tonal and nostalgic, it has no pretensions: just pleasant but individual writing, a bit too repetitive. It was beautifully played by Carlos Céspedes (clarinet) and Ezequiel Fainguersch (bassoon).
As to the "Fantastic", created in 1830 just three years after Beethoven´s death, after dozens of performances I remain amazed: it opened a new world of sound both in the richness of its ideas and the ceaselessly innovative orchestration. The Chilean conductor showed his mettle in a faithful rendition of the score´s many moods, and the Orchestra responded with considerable virtuosity.
On May 12 it was the turn of the Phil under Javier Logioia Orbe and with the return of a much loved pianist: Ralph Votapek. By now he must be seventy and he has lost none of his splendid musicality and command; also, he looks 55. Prokofiev´s Third Concerto (his best) is notoriously a great challenge, with its mixture of lyricism and savagery. The pianist gave us impeccably the relentless dynamism of the climactic passages and the delicacy of its dreamy bits.
Logioia is a firm and studious conductor, though he has a tendency to force the sound and this was felt both in Prokofiev (he also conducted the short March from "The Love for Three Oranges") and in Elgar´s wonderful "Enigma Variations", certainly well understood and expressed, but at times too clangorous. However, my seat in the very last row and under a roof may have had an acoustic influence on what I heard.
Finally, the National Symphony at the Blue Whale gave a splendid concert on April 13. Two valuable works were played with a degree of technical accomplishment and artistic comprehension that speaks highly of the orchestra, their conductor Günter Neuhold (who has come several times to BA in preceding seasons) and the pianist of the orchestra, Marcelo Balat. Ginastera´s Piano Concerto Op.28 (1961) is extremely difficult; its aesthetics are Expressionistic with a touch of Argentine rhythms. Balat played marvelously.
Shostakovich wrote a 55-minute masterpiece in his astonishing Tenth Symphony (1953, the year of Stalin´s death). Neuhold showed an admirable grip on the phrasing of chamber passages and the buildup of climaxes, and the Orchestra responded with stunning impact.
For Buenos Aires Herald