sábado, octubre 21, 2006

A midseason concert miscellany from the Big Three

Concert life in BA is astonishingly big in number and there are plenty of positive events. Herewith some of them in recent weeks from the Big Three (our main concert institutions). The Athestis Choir from Italy made a deep impression two years ago, but in two successive years Nuova Harmonia announced them at the start of the season and then due to different problems replaced them: last year with a local choir, and in 2006 by a quartet of singers called Athestis Soloists, whilst the chamber orchestra that supported the choir in 2004 was this time an instrumental ensemble of eight players called Il Tempio Armonico. Although I would certainly have preferred the visit of the Choir, this Coliseo concert dedicated to Italian Baroque and Classicism proved interesting. The players proved a find: led by violinist Davide Monti, the ensemble included two other violins, viola, cello, bass, organ and double harp. The latter instrument is surely a novelty as part of the continuo: I’ve seen a theorbo used, but not a double harp, which gave to the texture a charming touch. As the group is tightly knit and very professional, its contributions, of course more chamber than symphonic, were technically very good and historically aware. They chose pleasant music: the Concerto op.VI No.7 by Evaristo Dall’Abaco (1675-1742), Vivaldi’s Concerto “Il Favorito” (fine solos from Monti) and Baldassare Galuppi’s Sonata a quattro No.2. There was a replacement in the vocal quartet: Argentine countertenor Martín Barrera Oro (he has also performed as Martín Oro) took the parts of contralto Elena Croci, and proved again that he is a good singer. Of the others I preferred the clear focus of bass Matteo Bellotto to the blandness of tenor Vincenzo Di Donato and the uneven production of soprano Roberta Pozzer. The vocal pieces were the very succinct Magnificat by Albinoni and the more expansive and classicist “Nisi Dominus” by Galuppi, a late score of 1777, probably both premieres. The encore was Mozart’s “Ave Verum”. Festivales Musicales presented at the Colón an Austrian conductor, Uwe Christian Harrer, who came to our city decades ago as director of the Vienna Choir Boys. The programme responded to that institution’s year’s theme, Mozart and Salieri. From the former that lovely work in the French taste, the Concerto for flute and harp, where I was partially convinced by the soloists: Claudio Barile too variegated in color for the Classicist flute, and Lucrecia Jancsa playing with clear articulation but a very small sound. No objections to Soledad de la Rosa’s limpid singing of that famous Mozart motet, “Exsultate jubilate”. Harrer’s conducting of the augmented Camerata Bariloche was clean and stylish. It was quite valuable to hear the premiere of Salieri’s Requiem in C minor, written in 1804, a big 48-minute score which holds some surprises, such as the solo weight of the English horn, the imaginative alternation of the vocal quartet and the chorus, the fine orchestration and some dramatic ideas. I feel this is the best Salieri work we’ve heard so far this season and one that shows him an accomplished composer, though not a genius. The best of the vocal quartet were De la Rosa and bass Walter Schwarz, with rather undersized contributions from contralto Susanna Moncayo and tenor Manuel Núnez Camelino. The Orfeón de Buenos Aires sang well (it was prepared by Néstor Andrenacci and Pablo Piccinni) and the Camerata played very professionally under the authoritative conducting of Harrer. Probably no other European chamber ensemble has visited us as assiduously as the Beethoven Quartet of Rome (piano and strings), where three ex members of I Musici (Félix Ayo, violin; Alfonso Ghedin, viola; and Enzo Altobelli, cello) joined pianist Carlo Bruno in 1970 (due to Altobelli’s death he was later replaced by Mihai Dancila). They were soon “adopted” by the Mozarteum Argentino and have come with almost biannual regularity ever since. This season they were announced for earlier dates; alas, Bruno fell ill. The dates were reprogrammed at the Colón and Bruno has been replaced by Marco Grisanti, a distinguished player thus making his local debut. And as was planned originally, they were joined by violinist Cristina Dancila (debut, daughter of Mariana Sirbu, I Musici’s concertino, and presumably related to Mihai, the programme brought no illumination on this rather interesting point), for they were paying homage to another famous ensemble much loved here, the Quintetto Chigiano. They offered two different programmes of quintets ; the first I couldn’t hear, it had Shostakovich and Brahms; the second, Franck and Schumann. I find the Franck a splendid work, quite as important as the Violin/piano Sonata; I felt Grisanti played with much sensitivity and command of the material, but he was too soft and retiring, Franck needs more assertive phrasing; the strings were quite good. I had no reservations about the much played Schumann, orthodox and firm. The encores were fine: the final movement of Boccherini’s Quintet G 324, op.30/6, “La Musica Notturna delle Strade di Madrid”, from pianissimo to fortissimo to pianissimo (the Retreat); and the exhilarating Scherzo from Shostakovich’s Quintet. There was a moving speech from Ayo thanking the Mozarteum for his 50 years of collaborating with them since the days of I Musici (Ayo was its concertino) and lamenting the closing for repairs of the Colón, for he loves this theatre deeply. I can only hope for the best. 12/09/06 para el Buenos Aires Herald

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