sábado, octubre 21, 2006

The Phil’s season, the National’s non-season

The relative good news is that the Buenos Aires Philharmonic is having a correct season. The unrelieved bad news is that the National Symphony isn’t having one. I wrote a couple of months ago about the initial subscription concert of the Phil. Too many weeks passed before the second: it was conducted by Max Bragado-Darman , Spanish, who was supposed to make his debut here last year but was prevented by a strike from doing so. I had appreciated his work as conductor of the Symphony of Castilla and León at the beautiful Teatro Calderón of Valladolid in March 2000 and I had then a rather noncommittal impression: correct technique communicating not much. He has been working lately also with the Monterrey Symphony in California and I think he is now a better interpreter. The score in which he could show his mettle was Schumann’s First Symphony (“Spring”): here Bragado conducted with impulse and coherence and obtained fine playing from the Phil. Elsewhere he gave a well-colored frame for Pablo Saraví’s sensitive violin in Vaughan Williams’ soaring “The lark ascending”. Altogether paler was Mozart’s Concerto No. 1 from both conductor and soloist (one of the Phil’s concertinos). The first work in the programme was a Mexican short piece programmed by the Orchestra’s Principal Director Arturo Diemecke, who is of that nationality: “Jericó” proved to be a well-written and rather noisy score by Alexis Aranda, who acknowledged applause. Pedro Calderón was decades ago the Phil’s Principal Conductor for an unprecedented time of 25 years, and he now has been at the helm of the National Symphony for more than a decade; he is widely acknowledged as our most experienced conductor and he conducts the Phil for a concert every year. But the one I comment did have some mishaps: it would have been interesting to hear Salieri’s Symphony “Il giorno onomastico” (presumably a premiere) but somehow the orchestral parts weren’t obtained (an oft-repeated story, alas) and so it was replaced by a shorter work, the well-known Gluck Overture to “Iphigénie en Aulide” (to judge by its heaviness, probably the Wagner edition). Things didn’t improve with a lackluster interpretation of Mozart’s marvelous Symphony No.25 in G minor (the same tonality as the famous No. 40), aggravated by abundant horn fluffs. But I did enjoy Reger’s Variations and fugue on a theme by Mozart (from Sonata No. 11 for piano), certainly one of the best scores of this erudite composer; Calderón is a builder and he always feels at home in complex structures (years ago he did with the Phil the other great Reger set of Variations, the ones on a merry theme by Hiller). The orchestra here responded well. I liked the fourth concert, which brought the debut of Bulgarian conductor Rossen Milanov, who divides his time currently between his country and the USA (where he studied). Clear-minded and energetic, he delivered a thrilling Beethoven Fourth Symphony, a favorite work of mine, where the Phil seemed galvanized. Claudio Barile played Mozart”s Concerto No. 1 for flute K.313 with his accustomed dexterity, even if his highly colored playing is more attuned to Impressionism. He used well-made cadences by Taffanel, Gaubert and Rampal. Milanov accompanied nicely. Barile played as an encore a strange avantgarde piece, “Flames must not encircle side” by Robert Dick, with a special technique of circular breathing. The session had started with another Mexican score, Mario Lavista’s “Clepsidra”, to my mind very well-made and original; I think it was a premiere (damnably the Colón doesn’t specify such things nowadays; it did in better times). The latest Phil concert allowed the audience to meet conductor Ronald Zollman, who last year couldn’t make his debut due to the Colón’s second strike. He is a middle-aged Belgian Flemish conductor who has held posts in Belgium, Mexico and Israel. After a correct Beethoven “Coriolan” he accompanied the Phil’s first desk Gabriel La Rocca in Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto. It was brilliantly played with accomplishment and style, though cadenzas by Claude Kuhnemann and by La Rocca himself were rather out of period. Scriabin’s overheated and difficult 45-minute Symphony No. 2 was admirably expressed in Zollman’s passionate but controlled version, with fine playing from the Phil, especially the brass section. The artists may be angry because the Colón promised work clothes and didn’t deliver (hence the men play in shirtsleeves and the women in sober black) but they are currently in good shape. Unfortunately I haven’t heard any of the open-air protest concerts the National Symphony has played in front of the Obelisk, so I don’t know in what shape they are. The sad fact is that the season hasn’t started due to gross differences of opinion between the Culture Secretariat’s functionaries and the players concerning basic labor conditions. Longstanding grievances concerning not only salaries but also what they call the “career” (special considerations due to experience and seniority) seemed in the way of solution last year (with recommendations from both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies to the Executive to be fair with the artists) when suddenly a projected decree that would have solved matters was cancelled and the whole thing was derived to labor negotiations (“paritarias”) which dragged on and on with the absence of Culture functionaries. So in March the players decided to strike, conciliations weren’t obeyed by Culture and further postponements maintain the Orchestra paralyzed to this day. 29/06/06 para el Buenos Aires Herald

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