sábado, octubre 21, 2006

Scots to the fore

The early weeks of the concert season have provided some interesting stuff. At the Colón the Mozarteum Argentino started out with the debut of the Scottish BBC Symphony, of its young Israeli conductor Ivan Volkov and of both soloists: Barbara Hannigan (soprano) and Michael Collins (clarinet). You will remember that the main BBC Orchestra visited us twice and left sterling memories. I won’t pretend that the Scottish BBC is quite in the same league but this organism is well worth meeting and gave a lot of pleasure. The programming with one exception was a definite plus, especially in the first concert. The Divertimento from Stravinsky’s “The Fairy’s Kiss” is one of his most charming and melodic scores. This was the less valuable interpretation for Volkov lacked a measure of rhythmic control and there were fluffs. Britten’s “Les Illuminations” is pure gain, a brilliant musicalisation of Rimbaud’s beautiful and disquieting poems, and I prefer it sung by a soprano rather than by a tenor (both alternatives are acceptable). Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan, tall, blonde and stately, is the possessor of a transparent voice of lovely timbre and she had the skill to keep in tune throughout the difficult cycle, well accompanied by the orchestra strings. Mahler’s Fourth Symphony was presented in an accomplished version by Volkov, who followed the author’s detailed instructions and gave full measure to each episode of this lovely work, certainly the author’s most lyrical; Hannigan sang the angel’s part in the final movement (a song) with the right naif quality though her lows were a bit weak. Encores: a fine execution of that gossamer piece of orchestration , the Overture to “Beatrice and Benedict” by Berlioz; and a Scottish reel, played with the imaginable gusto. There were two main interests in the second concert: the initial score and the soloist. Elgar’s “In the South” is a wonderful and Straussian evocation of the Riviera holding within its exuberance one intimate episode with viola solo (played sweetly and truly by Scott Dickinson); it’s a shame that it was heard here only once before by the Kent County Youth Orchestra. Volkov and the Scottish Orchestra gave its full due to the richness and texture of the music. Collins was the marvelous clarinettist in Mozart’s Concerto K.622: absolute dexterity, the subtlest dynamic control (breathtaking pianissimi) and a perfect sense of style were displayed throughout the nocturnal and refined music; and Volkov accompanied well. The “Rhenish” Symphony (No.3) by Schumann is problematic: although it has impressive moments, the score lacks air, solos, chamber exchanges; it sounds blocky and heavy. Volkov didn’t give it the necessary lift of inspiration and the whole was conscientious but rather dull. We were shortchanged at encore time, with only the same Scottish reel of the preceding concert. Two points worth remarking: Volkov is only 29 or 30, his technique will surely mature; and two first desks are well-known here: concertino Peter Thomas used to play with violist Tomás Tichauer, and the cellist is the Argentine Eduardo Vassallo. Now on to other concerts. An important one was the interpretation of Mahler’s Second Symphony (“Resurrection”), arguably his most valuable along with the Ninth. This was part of the ambitious project by Stefan Lano, Director of the Colón Orchestra, to include challenging concerts and not only operas in the season planning. Frankly the score in Lano’s hands sounded careful but hung fire in the first three movements; it was only in the fifth (after that metaphysical song, “Urlicht”, was sung acceptably by Cecilia Díaz), with the tremendous buildup of the resurrected procession , that I felt the thrill this work almost always provokes in me; the last 15 minutes with the intervention of a sonorous Colón Chorus (Salvatore Caputo) were rather good, although flawed by rather indifferent-sounding soloists (Cecilia Díaz, mezzosoprano; Mónica Philibert, soprano). The occasion was the thirtieth anniversary of the last military coup. The literature in the hand programme converted Mahler into an advocate of human rights! No, the composer is transcendent in his aim (as is Klopstock in the Ode on Resurrection) : democracy, tolerance and dictatorship have nothing to do with it (earlier at the beginning, Cristina Banegas as emcee gave us the Kirchner era half-truths). Festivales Musicales started their season with the augmented Camerata Bariloche at the Colón offering works according to their motto this year: Mozart and Salieri. It proved a dicey proposition in which proportions were wrong to my mind: half-and-half isn’t the formula; rather , ¾ Mozart and ¼ Salieri would be more logical. Indeed, it showed that Salieri wasn’t a genius but a rather modestly inspired composer with a good technique, which occasionally rises to greater heights. I preferred Salieri’s Concerto for flute and oboe to his Concerto in C for piano; the former has some agreeable combinations of sound but the Piano Concerto sounds rather small in its ideas and developments, though there are attractive bits. Claudio Barile (flute) and Andrés Spiller (oboe) played fluidly, but Carmen Piazzini seemed rather uncomfortable with the piece and there were discernible errors. The orchestra under Fernando Hasaj seemed to lack some precision. I presume both scores were premieres. Mozart went much better. His much-trodden Divertimento K. 136 was played with consummate ease (only strings) and the complex Concerto No. 18 was offered with care by Piazzini apart from some small accident and the Camerata accompanied well. 09/05/06 para el Buenos Aires Herald

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