miércoles, junio 28, 2017

Panoply of attractive piano and chamber music / Perianes, Dego, Viennese and Argentine artists show their talent

            Two years ago Spanish pianist Javier Perianes made an unheralded debut at the cozy small Museo Fernández Blanco. Now he was back, this time at the Colón for the Mozarteum cycle. He has an international reputation as a refined artist; his programme was admirably planned: Vienna represented by Schubert and Granada by Falla, Debussy and Albéniz. The intimate Allegretto in C minor preceded the final  Sonata of the Pre-Romantic Austrian, Nº21, overplayed (several are as interesting  as this one) but enigmatic, long and beautiful. It was soon apparent that Perianes has the secret of variety of timbre, perfect articulation and attention to detail.
            I defend his idea of playing with no pause the pieces by Falla (Homage to Debussy´s grave), Debussy (Afternoon at Granada from Estampes, "La Puerta del Vino" from Preludes Book II and "The interrupted Serenade" from Preludes Book I) and Albéniz ("El Albaicín" from "Iberia"), for thus he illuminated the connexions between these very different composers and the fascinating city of the Alhambra. In Debussy Perianes showed himself a past master of Impressionism, and he also caught precisely the morose sadness of Falla and the fantastic virtuosity needed for Albéniz. Falla´s Suite from "El amor brujo" ("Love the Magician") was fine in the mysterious ambiences but somewhat short in impact in the famous Ritual Fire Dance. There is only one flaw in this talented pianist: the lack of viscerality and true "fortissimi" when required. The encore was lovely: Chopin´s Eighth Nocturne.
            The Museo Fernández Blanco has had for many years a consistent policy of offering quality concerts in its marvelous main hall (120 capacity). A special feature is the series starring the magnificent Italian Eighteenth-century instruments of their collection, the best in South America. Francesca Dego had been here before and I have an excellent memory of her concert with orchestra, but this was a greater challenge: to play three virtuosic pieces of completely different composers, each on one of those wonderful instruments. Presented by the expert Pablo Saraví, she gave us  the fascinating Sonata Op.27 Nº2 by Ysaÿe on a Santo Serafin (Venice, c.1730); "To Paganini", an extremely complex piece by the Russian Alfred Schnittke, on a Giovanni Battista Guadagnini (Piacenza, c.1747); and the redoubtable Bach Partita Nº2 ending with the great Chaconne, in what is considered the most important violin of the collection, a Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù (Cremona, 1732). Her encore: the celebrated Paganini Caprice Nº24. A tour de force brilliantly done by the interpreter, a tall beautiful blonde of immense command and stamina. And the instruments impressed me by their nobility and roundness of tone.
            But the Fernández Blanco in its "normal" concerts is often very attractive. I will mention three of them. The splendid Cracow Duo (Jan Kalinowski, cello; Marek Szlezer, piano) gave a mostly Polish recital: a young Chopin (Introduction and Brilliant Polonbaise) and three premières: a Post-Romantic Nocturne Op.39 Nº 2 by Ludomir Rózicki, the succinct and interesting Sonata by Tadeusz Majerski and the Neoclassic and charming Partita by Alexander Tansman. Plus tango-tinged Argentine pieces: José Bragato´s "Graciela y Buenos Aires", Piazzolla´s "Oblivion" and as encore, "Ave Maria".
            Astonishing: at the same place I experienced the 42nd Concert of Chamber Music by Czech Composers organised by clarinet player Luis Slabý, a lonely crusade I much admire. In this case he presented scores originally for wind quintet or adapted to it, with his colleagues Laura Rus (flute), David Bortolus (oboe), Leonardo Melgarejo (horn) and Gabriel La Rocca (bassoon). The brief four-movement Quintet by Jirí Laburda written when he was 80 in 2011 is dedicated to his friend Slabý and is a fine example of Neoclassicism´survival. The longer and more complex Quintet by Jirí Pauer (1919-2007) has a curious structure: six movements divided in groups of two (Introduction and main material), with the accent on humour (Burlesque, Grotesque); the music is imaginative and fresh, Neoclassic but more audacious. It´s a curious idea to transcribe Dvorák´s Quartet Op.96 ("American") to the very opposed texture of a wind quintet, but that´s what the French oboist David Walter did; I followed with the original score and the transcription is acceptably faithful but only partially convincing. All the players were good, except for the hornist in Dvorák.
            Another valuable crusader is Lucio Bruno-Videla, who year after year lets us hear Argentine music not available for decades, recovered by arduous investigation. His excellent comments previous to each performance were  a great help. Several pianists let us hear interesting pieces by Argentine or nationalised composers. The early Rhapsodies (1887) by Arturo Berutti (1858-1938), nicely played by Juan Pablo Scafidi, show that the man who later became our first important creator of operas (unfortunately forgotten) was also imaginative in his piano music. But undoubtedly the seminal pioneer of academic music (except operas) was Alberto Williams  (1862-1952), only author of nine symphonies but also of an enormous amount of piano music plus other pieces such as string suites or songs. Pablo Williams, son of Amancio the innovative architect and grandson of Alberto, has preserved his legacy and he is much to be thanked. Melina Marcos was the very proficient player of his First suite (1891) and "Payasos" ("Clowns"), of 1918, homage to Frank Brown, founder of the creole circus, in seven funny and extravagant fragments. I found the Sonatina (1918) by the Spanish-born José Gil (1886-1947) rather too conventional, and Patricia Lamprópulos hesitant in her reading. On the other hand, the three "Spiritual pieces" (1917 to 1921) by the catalan Jaime Pahissa (1880-1969) were searching and valid; well played by Scafidi. Finally, more Williams, in the interpretation of the Estonian Klarika Kuusk, quite good: the charming "Five new milongas" of 1942.
            Coincidentally, in the same week one of the Mozarteum Midday concerts at the Gran Rex gave us another rescue: an all-Williams experience by the Chamber Orchestra of the Nation´s Congress conducted by Sebastiano De Filippi, in fact a string ensemble of twenty players, not all of them up to par. The three Argentine Suites of 1923 were separated by small pieces: "Fog at La Pampa" (1951), "Goodbye to the Ranch" from the Second Suite of milongas "Airs of La Pampa" (1944) and the third piece of the Second suite of miniatures (1892).  The music is all evocative of our folklore but  never quotes, everything is creative and pleasant. The versions had their faults but were intelligible and useful.
            Another Midday Concert gave us the debut of the String Quintet called Wiener Kammersymphonie (Viennese Chamber Symphony) plus the return to BA of an Argentine pianist, José Gallardo, who lives in Germany (Mainz) as Professor but concertizes widely. It´s a strange quintet, for such groups generally have two violas or two cellos, but not this one: two violins, one viola, one cello, one bass. There´s practically no original repertoire for such a combination, and so they presented arrangements for it, but with a special touch: they aren´t of our times. An anonymous composer arranged in 1808 the Overture and two arias from Mozart´s "The Magic Flute". Vinzenz Lachner adapted Beethoven´s Third Piano Concerto to piano and this sort of quintet. And the incredibly precocious "Märchenbilder" ("Fairy Tale images") by Korngold (written for piano in 1909 at 12, orchestrated by him the following year) adapted by Josip Maticic. Very good playing from all concerned, Gallardo proving to be a stylish Beethovenian.
For Buenos Aires Herald