Choice is difficult in our intense musical life, especially for a reviewer. I miss several worthwhile events every week, generally due to collisions. Last Tuesday I didn´t have a problem and I went to the so-called Impressionist Gala of La Bella Música. But on Wednesday I was present at 1 pm at the Mozarteum Midday Concert, at 5 pm I relished a Shakespeare in Symphonic Music session at the Colón, and at 8pm, same place, I saw the ballets of "Contemporary night". And I missed what must have been a delectable concert of Slavic songs by Daniela Tabernig and Alexander Panizza organised by the Fundación Música de Cámara at the Museo de Arte Decorativo at 7 pm.
La Bella Música gives its concerts this year at the Brick Hotel (ex Caesar Park) in an ample First Floor hall of acceptable acoustics. They presented the Cuarteto Petrus, surely one of the best we have, in the two emblematic quartets of Impressionism, those of Debussy and Ravel. A short but pithy programme (57 minutes), a typical coupling of vinyl LP times. And a hard one to supplement, for the French production of quartets is lean, and those that come to mind aren´t Impressionistic. Outside that aesthetic line options could be relatively short quartets by Roussel, Milhaud or Fauré (a late, autumnal and severe score).
Debussy´s Quartet was written when he was 31, mulling over his first orchestral masterpiece, "Prélude à l´après-midi d´un faune". The Quartet is beautiful and complex, making the most of small melodic cells; however, its textures are a bit dense now and then. Ravel´s dates from 1903, ten years later, and it shows: at 28 he handles the medium with greater skill; the sounds are more aerated and special uses of the strings are more often employed. It is a fascinating score, quite Impressionistic.
Cellular phones were heard rather often during the Debussy performance; in the brief interval La Bella Música´s President Patricia Pouchulu scolded the offenders, and the first violinist Pablo Saraví said "we don´t want competition". Was this a factor in the relatively less accomplished Debussy performance as compared with the Ravel? Perhaps. But these first-rate professionals emitted some rather harsh sounds and omitted subtleties that were needed, with the exception of violist Adrián Felizia, who maintained a lovely timbre and perfect technique in both scores. Saraví, Hernán Briático (second violin) and Gloria Pankaeva (cello) were below their considerable best in Debussy, but fortunately found their form in Ravel, which went very well. As did their encore, not Impressionistic indeed, a typical Piazzolla piece.
The Indiana University Virtuosi have visited us before, though it isn´t mentioned in the hand programme, and at the same place, the Gran Rex. They were here on June 20, 2013. The Jacobs School of Music Virtuosi is in Bloomington, the biggest of the eight campuses of this great university (115.000 students). The group that came now was stunning: nine violinists (boys and girls between 14- and 18-years-old) playing with total unanimity, splendid timbric quality and exact tuning. No wonder they have so many admirable orchestras in the USA: many youngsters have natural talent but they also undergo intensive and well-oriented training such as this school provides.
Mimi Zweig is the Directress of the String Academy, though in this tour the players were accompanied by two Co-Directresses, Brenda Brenner and Susan Moses, and in concert by pianist Wonmin Kim, always clean and well coordinated with the violinists. One astonishing thing: the kids didn´t use scores, everything was committed to flawless memories.
Two pieces were played by soloists with piano: Sydney Hartwick (a girl) in a clever arrangement of Saint-Saëns´ "Dance macabre" and Maria Sanderson in Wieniawski Polonaise Nº1; both were very good. Kreisler´s Neo-baroque Prelude and Allegro and Telemann´s truly Baroque Concerto for four violins were both played by the nine violinists with no change in the scores. After a folk interlude (the Russian Gypsy "Two guitars") and the solo pieces we heard a well-conceived arrangement by Atar Arad of Bartók´s Sonatina for piano, here for nine players divided in threes. Then, three scenes from Bizet´s "Carmen" in an idiomatic arrangement by Gilles Tremblay and a North South Medley by Francisco Cortés-Álavrez that includes two tangos. And of course some Piazzolla for encore...
The Orquesta Académica del Instituto Superior de Arte del Colón gives free concerts at the theatre on certain afternoons. This time Guillermo Scarabino, who has a vast career and has been associated with the Académica since its foundation, chose with intelligence three scores inspired on Shakespeare: a selection from the music for the Kozintsev film "Hamlet" (1964) by Shostakovich; the three "Comentarios para ´Romeo y Julieta´ " by Carlos López Buchardo (incidental music for a 1934 staging of the play); and the Suite from the music for the film "Henry V" by William Walton as compiled by Muir Mathieson, who was the conductor of the soundtrack for Laurence Olivier´s fine direction (1944).
The Shostakovich pieces are stark and impressive, with ominous orchestrations ("The Ghost", "Poisoning Scene"); López Buchardo gives us images of youthful love before the tragedy in nice, very tonal music; and Walton alternates soft melodic pieces with others connected with the Globe Theatre and the Battle of Agincourt (citing its famous old tune). All was played rather well in this short (47 minutes) concert, presented and conducted by Scarabino with professional aplomb.
For Buenos Aires Herald