sábado, octubre 21, 2006

Parting shots of the musical season

January and February are a desert as far as classical music is concerned in our city. Something should be done about it. As March arrived, I’m surely not alone in having developed a hunger for live music. These are some of the parting shots of the new season. I gave a preview of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic’s season in the Herald’s edition of March 2. They played their first subscription concert on March 9, repeating it two days later (non-subscription). It was led by its Principal Conductor, Arturo Diemecke. Although the works chosen are valid in themselves, there were two mistakes: Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto was surely enough to show the exceptional abilities of the Phil’s first desk Mariano Rey, there was no need to precede it with yet another score for clarinet and orchestra, Debussy’s splendid Rhapsody. A purely orchestral score should have opened the programme. And although this is the year in which we commemorate the centenary of Shostakovich’s birth, it was ill-advised to repeat a symphony included by the Phil in last year’s season, the Fifth, when there are so many of the author’s fifteen symphonies that have never been played by this orchestra. But Diemecke has the measure of the great work and apart from some exaggerations certainly communicated its intent with fine detail and firm hand. The Phil was in rather good shape, with some notable solos (flute, horn). Rey is undoubtedly a player of international rank . Except an almost literal repetition of last year’s concert combining symphonic tango and Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in blue” (Gandini-Marconi) no activities of the Phil have been announced between March 12 and April 12, when they will play the ballet “La Sylphide”; this is very poor management of the people’s monies. Under the aegis of Patricia Pouchulu (as in earlier seasons) Sofitel will present a further cycle of Soirées Musicales at their pleasant first floor chamber venue. After the concert the audience partakes of a cocktail. Two German artists made their debut with a Liederabend (an evening of song): baritone Burkhard Von Puttkamer and pianist András Vermesy. A short Beethoven group featured Mephistopheles’ Song of the Flea. Then followed a well-contrasted selection of Schubert’s Lieder ranging from the tragic “Doppelgaenger” to the charming Serenade. After the interval, Schumann’s marvelous cycle on Heine’s texts “Dichterliebe” (“A poet’s love”), in homage to the l50 years of his death. Von Puttkamer’s voice is short in range and hasn’t much beauty, but he partially compensates with accuracy of intonation and a natural though rather generalised expressiveness; he gives attention to the words and articulates well. I have no reservations about the pianist who seemed to me quite first-rate both in mechanical exactness and in sensitive phrasing and knowledge of style. The free Saturday concerts at the Facultad de Derecho (BA) have been a permanent fixture in recent years, allowing many orchestras and bands a place in the sun. Even with its Main Hall’s legendary reverberation, they provide an occasion to meet many organisms of lesser rank and sometimes they also allow us to hear a foreign outfit. Such was the case on March 4 with the Chamber Orchestra of the ULBRA (Lutheran University of Brazil). It is a 16-player string ensemble led by Tiago Flores with Emerson Kretschmer as concertino. The pleasant all-Brazilian programme alternated arrangements with original pieces. Their great classical composer is of course Villa-Lobos; from him, two scores in arrangement: his First String Quartet and the lovely Aria from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5. Of the following generation we heard Claudio Santoro’s alluring “Ponteio”. On to our contemporaries: Marlos Nobre’s tonal “Desafio III” for violin and strings, and two works by a member of the ensemble, Arthur Barbosa: a spiky Scherzo and “Choreando”, a synthesis of choros by Waldyr Azevedo, Zequinha de Abreu and Ernesto Nazareth; frankly I prefer these pieces on guitar and “cavaquinho” (a small folk guitar) such as Turibio Santos did them here a good many years ago. But the group is agreeable enough, though not quite first-rate and it is led proficiently by Flores. The Conservatorio Beethoven is guided by our great pianist Pía Sebastiani; it has a small recital hall with a rather modest piano and it gives opportunities to young players . One such is pianist Marcelo Lian, a Sebastiani pupil who is currently studying in the USA. I feel he has talent but should reorient his considerable means: the left hand dominates the right and the sound is too massive. Such a work as Beethoven’s marvelous Sonata No.18 needs controlled strength but also lightness of articulation and a mercurial quality; it didn’t get these qualities . But Lian was more comfortable in Rachmaninov and Liszt and some aspects were solved with ability. Two off-off-Colón opera productions gave me almost no pleasure. The best news about La Manufactura Papelera’s revival of Gounod’s “Faust” was merely that the Manufactura reopened after a ridiculous closure in late November for banal reasons (overzealous post-Cromagnon functionaries). For this piano-accompanied version (poorly played by César Tello) had an arbitrary production by Mónica Maffía and mediocre singers with the exception of a promising bass-baritone, Luciano Straguzzi. And Donizetti’s “Il Campanello” in an unacceptable Spanish translation was presented at the Teatro Santa María with an unfunny and forced production, a bad violin-piano accompaniment and again mediocre singers with the exception of the passable Gabriel Motta. 05/04/06 para el Buenos Aires Herald

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