viernes, marzo 30, 2007

The Phil at the Gran Rex: bad acoustics, fine programming

I won't harp again with such tired slogans as the Colón's admirable acoustics; the fact is that the theatre will remain closed during all of 2007, so that's that. The authorities decided on the Gran Rex as this year's replacement, apparently because of its huge capacity: it holds about 3000 people, and some subscription concerts at the Colón have approached that figure. It can't be said that the Rex has no symphonic tradition: that enormously wide hall of the 1930s rationalistic school of architecture is impressive in its way, but it is also unresonant and punchless, matte to a fault; nevertheless it gave us in the 1950s such great concerts with the National Symphony as those conducted by Erich Kleiber (the nine Beethoven symphonies), Rudolf Kempe, Igor Markevich or Eduard Van Beinum. And of course it has received the Mozarteum Midday Concerts during many seasons. But the acoustics are still bad, even if panels have been added during the last decade.

Some weeks ago I announced the Phil's season and praised the programming . It is certainly the best the Orchestra has had in the last decade, and it is commendable that there's a reasonable assignment of money to pay for the rentals of orchestral parts ; without this requisite there can be no adventurous plan. The main thing is that each concert should have some intellectual stimulation for the seasoned music lover; a balanced mixture of old and new, of unknown, relatively known and very popular. A subscription audience does want to hear a Brahms symphony again, even if it has heard it often, but most people do need interesting music that isn't trodden to exhaustion.

The first three concerts are good proof that the ideas of Julio Palacio (programmer) are attracting the public. The start was in the hands of Stefan Lano, the Colón's Musical Director, who was in those days rehearsing "Wozzeck" with the Colón Orchestra. A recognized specialist in Alban Berg, he started the subscription series with that composer's admirable Violin Concerto (to the memory of an angel, it is inscribed, the angel being Manon Gropius, deceased when still a teenager, daughter of Alma Schindler and Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus architect). With a conscientious solo job by Fernando Hasaj, the work was well played but short on emotional projection both in the violin part and in the orchestral sounds.

The programme ended with a tremendous score, the incomplete Ninth Symphony by Bruckner. Lacking the fourth movement, it still lasts an hour. Late Romantic music of dense argument and powerful climaxes, it needs more forward propulsion than Lano gave to it; his exaggerated pauses and slow tempi made for heavy weather in a work that must be granitic but purposeful. The Orchestra responded correctly but with less conviction than I hoped for. Granted, this was a difficult combination of masterpieces for what was still late Summer. Perhaps something lighter would have been more apposite to start and this programme, impeccable in itself, would have worked better later in the season.

I haven't mentioned yet that this year the concerts are given on Tuesdays, apparently because the Gran Rex management wants to have Thursdays free for its popular music offerings. This has forced a Colón arrangement with the players of the Phil, for they have to rehearse on Mondays, a traditional rest day for the Colón's artists. I also want to state that some players told me they would have preferred to have the Auditorio de Belgrano as the venue, for its much brighter acoustics; but I told them that the 1200 people capacity would have forced to duplicate each concert to accommodate the habitual patrons of the Phil.

The second concert was conducted by the Argentine maestro Guillermo Scarabino with his usual seriousness and professionalism, but also his low communicative voltage. After the pleasant "Overture for a comic opera" by our Neoclassic composer José María Castro, homage was paid to Jan Sibelius in the 50th anniversary of his death: the nine-piece incidental music to "Pelleas and Melisande", and the premiere of his tone poem "The Oceanides", a late work (1914) of beautiful melody and characteristically Sibelian orchestration. A strong performance of Brahms' majestic First Piano Concerto by Alexander Panizza showed his firm command and big sound; Scarabino accompanied well.

The third concert had the welcome presence of Chilean conductor Francisco Rettig, who combined profound knowledge of scores with clear gestures and sane interpretative ideas. I am very sorry, however, that the original programme was changed. We were to hear Argentine cellist Eduardo Vasallo in Lalo's Concerto, but for some unexplained reason he couldn't appear. So this was replaced by Mozart's Symphony No. 36, "Linz". But Dvorák's "Scherzo capriccioso", a wonderful piece, was deleted, also with no explanation, and we were left with an absurdly short programme, just one hour. This won't do.

However, the concert was very good. We had clean, tasteful, even refined Mozart. And then, an enormously talented piece which has been played only twice here: Witold Lutoslawski's Concerto for orchestra, modelled on Bartók's. The composer is to my mind the best of the Polish School that flourished after World War II. This score is closely argued, full of incident, dramatic, strong and accessible; it dates from 1954 . Rettig led it forcefully and with great intelligence, and the Phil responded beautifully.

For Buenos Aires Herald - April 05, 2007

No hay comentarios.: