Once in a while you get the near ideal combination of important chamber music rarely played with fully professional artists that do them justice. That happened in the last Midday Concert of the Mozarteum Argentino at the Gran Rex.
The Petrus Quartet is currently our best; it is made up of Pablo Saraví and Hernán Briático, violins; Adrián Felizia, viola; and Gloria Pankaeva, cello. They not only play admirably all four, but they are cultivated people who know how to choose repertoire. In this case they put together Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga´s First Quartet and that sui generis score, Ernest Chausson´s Concerto for piano, violin and string quartet. In the latter the Petrus were joined by Rafael Gintoli, violin, and Alexander Panizza, piano.
The only thing that surprised me was the length of the concert, for they generally start about 1,03 pm and finish by 2 pm. Although it´s true that they began at 1,08, Arriaga lasts 26 minutes and Chausson, 41. And they gave us a bonus repeating the Sicilienne (6 minutes) of Chausson. So, 73 minutes plus the delay, the applause and the necessary adding of the piano and the violin soloists. We went out at 2,30, but everyone seemed happy. And they should be, for all was well.
Arriaga was an amazing case: he lived only 20 years (1806-26) but he was the best Spanish composer of the period. He left us particularly three notable quartets and a splendid symphony. It was a terrible time for Spain, with the Napoleonic war and the loss of the colonies, and little was left of the tradition of Boccherini. But Arriaga went to Paris and was guided by Cherubini, who wrote beautiful quartets. And this, plus the Spaniard´s immense natural talent, explains why to hear the First Quartet is such a discovery: for he was a teenager but the music is mature, innovative and beautiful. And the Petrus was completely up to the challenge.
Chausson, along with D´Indy, was Franck´s great disciple. Which means dense, chromatic music imbued with Late Romantic intensity and firm structure. Double Concerti are generally for two violins, two pianos or violin/cello, but here the combination is a leading violin urged on by powerful and virtuoso piano writing, and the orchestra is supplanted by a string quartet. It makes for a novel and fascinating texture. In style there is the influence of Franck´s magnificent Piano Quintet but also a personal imprint. It is dated 1891.
From the start the understanding between soloists and quartet was complete. Gintoli has had a long career but keeps his technique impeccable, with clean sound , exact tuning and musicianly phrasing. He knows when to lead and when to blend. He only lacks a richer sound . Well, this isn´t a problem for Panizza, a pianist in the grand manner that gave character and accuracy to the difficult writing without covering the others. And the Petrus accompanied with skill or took relevance where the music needs it. The final movement carried all before it with passionate fast dialogues.
One knows when the artists have enjoyed themselves; they certainly did and it communicated to the audience.