For several decades Carlos López Puccio has led a celebrated double life as member of Les Luthiers and the recognised master of the best chamber choir we have, the Estudio Coral de Buenos Aires. What´s relevant isn´t only the high quality of picked professional singers and the expressive and stylish interpretations that the conductor always obtains: what matters equally is the unfailing interest of the pieces that his avid curiosity unveils for us.
Last Wednesday they gave an outstanding recital for the Mozarteum´s Midday Concerts at the Gran Rex, called "Postromanticism and Modernity in the Twentieth Century". Although many of the pieces had been heard at the Colón last year, some were not, very especially a fantastic Richard Strauss score, "Hymne", sung however in other venues, and for me the main attraction.
As he always does, López Puccio, with his nervous, fast humor, presented some of the most complex choices. Naturally "Hymne" (1938) closed the concert. On a Friedrich Rückert text about the biblical story of Joseph and his brethren Strauss builds a colossal edifice for twelve different voices plus a soloists quartet, not only a technical tour de force but, as the conductor said, "a beautiful piece of work". The sixteen parts meshed to perfection and arrived to an overpowering climax before subsiding. The solid soloists were Pol González, Paula Riestra, Silvina Sadoly and Pablo Zartmann.
Earlier we had heard another of Strauss´ rare scores for choir, heard at the Colón, the sarcastic and witty "Die Göttin im Putzzimmer" ("The Goddess at the boudoir"), 1936, in a Rückert text on an entirely contrasting subject with that of "Hymne". This "Goddess" isn´t easy at all, for eight skillfully managed voices (of course several singers per voice: the Estudio numbers thirty people)
Two items were folk-inspired: two of Janácek´s songs for mixed choir, a slow melodic one ("The wild duck") and a fast, rhythmic piece ("Our song"), both very attractive; but here López Puccio chose with poetic licence, for they are from 1885 and 1890. The "Four Slovak folksongs" (1917) by Bartók are short and close to the originals collected by himself; charming and vigorous, they show why this great creator was so attracted by folklore. The interpretations were fresh and rhythmic.
The other two scores were from notable USA composers. Copland´s "Lark" (1938) is an inspired song for baritone and choir; the fine soloist was Martín Caltabiano. Surely the most advanced choice was Charles Ives´ "General Booth enters into Heaven", written in 1914 on a text by Vachel Lindsay extolling the figure of Booth, founder of the Salvation Army; his entry is followed by a choir of indigent people. The firm voice of González was the Narrator; the choir quoted the hymn "Cleansing fountain" (1823) by Lowell Mason; and the piano played atonal chords. As usual, Ives experimented, with talent and a personal touch. Both here and in Bartók, Diego Ruiz accompanied.
For Buenos Aires Herald