domingo, julio 29, 2007

Distinguished visitors grace musical scene

In recent weeks our city has been graced by admirable visitors from abroad who have offered distinguished recitals in major concert institutions. Probably the best was given at the Coliseo for the Mozarteum Argentino by the marvelous team of Vadim Repin (violin) and Itamar Golan (piano). Both have been here before and were a success, but their current form showed them at the top of their profession. One hears very rarely playing of the smoothness and accuracy produced by this Siberian violinist born in 1971, or piano execution of such rotund perfection as that presented by the Lithuanian pianist. If I want to quibble, here and there a bit more accent from the violinist wouldn't have been amiss. It helped that no less than three major sonatas were presented, only one of them habitual repertoire (Brahms' No. 3); the others were a homage to Edvard Grieg in his centenary year (No.3, his best) and the fascinatingly quirky Janácek Sonata, with its strong rhythmic and melodic contrasts.

The programme was completed with Chausson's lovely "Poem" and the pyrotechnics of Franz Waxman's Fantasia on Bizet's "Carmen", done astonishingly well by Repin. Encores: a melancholy piece by Tchaikovsky, the Bartók-Székely Romanian Dances and the soulful and devilish "Gypsy airs" by Sarasate; all were treats in such talented hands and minds.

Another brilliant violin-piano team was made up of Shlomo Mintz and Peter Jirikovsky ; their recital was at AMIJAI. Last year they had played in the same hall. In comparison I found the pianist much improved, his interpretations deeper and the technical side a great deal richer and firmer, particularly his tone has acquired a new roundness and beauty. On the other hand, I still feel that Mintz's tone has lost serenity and terseness; it's true that he makes things too difficult for himself by his choice of programme, for the majority of the pieces were ultravirtuosic. In less demanding but musically rewarding pieces the spikiness was also noticeable, but the savvy phrasing compensated and gave pleasure. I don't want to exaggerate, a lot of what he did was impressive; Mintz is still redoubtable but he has lost some of his amazing ability.

The First Part gave us two scores of similar period: Beethoven's fresh Sonata No.8 and Schubert's Sonatina No. 2 in A minor (the programme wrongly said in D major). Too nervous-sounding in Beethoven (especially in the first movement), Mintz settled down in Schubert and got the best results of the evening; so did Jirikovsky; there was lyricism, good taste and charm. The Second Part accumulated hurdles: the almost impossible "Tzigane" by Ravel was followed by no less than five pieces by fabled violinist-composer Pablo de Sarasate, all of them fingerbreakers. And the encore gave no respite: Saint-Saens' "Introduction and Rondo capriccioso".

Pianist Andrea Lucchesini had played here before, with orchestra, and had left a good impression. But his recital for Nuova Harmonia at the Coliseo showed him now as a major artist, of consummate technical command and very interesting interpretation. His tastes lean to Classicism and his touch is of extreme precision and clearness. Emotional turbulence doesn't come easily to him, but scintillating brilliancy does.

The mature Clementi sonatas are astonishing and certainly influenced Beethoven; Lucchesini chose Op.34 No.2, a pre-Romantic score that I knew through Horowitz's ground-breaking recording. The Italian pianist gave us a very clean and tasteful traversal, somewhat short on drama. The Op. 90 Impromptus by Schubert were done with consumate skill and delicacy. Fantastic is the word for Lucchesini's immaculate and fast execution of three D. Scarlatti Sonatas (K.491, 454 and 146). Schumann's "Carnival" is a kaleidoscope of emotions and of trascendental difficulties; the latter were roundly met, the former less so. Refined, no doubt, but also lacking in deep tone and truly Romantic phrasing. The encore was Chopin's passionate Prelude No.24, whose hurdles were solved with ease.

When I heard that Paul Badura-Skoda was returning to BA after many years of absence, I had mixed feelings. When I was a student in Washington in 1956, I got wonderful Schubert records of this pianist, who was then in his twenties, and I felt that his Impromptus Op.90 and his "Moments musicaux" were ideal specimens of the best young Viennese school, models of style and fluent technique. A couple of decades after that he gave here for the Mozarteum what may have been the best all-Schubert recital I have heard; but in other instances his results have been erratic . He has recorded enormously and is famous for both his collection of fortepianos (historic) and of original ("Urtext") scores. Now he is over eighty and the temporal side must be taken into consideration analyzing his recent recital at the Museo de Arte Decorativo, a non-subscription Festivales Musicales date and a benefit.

The programme was short, only the Impromptus op.90 and the "Moments musicaux". Before , the pianist adressed the public in good Spanish with a nice informality; alas, he decided to play a Chopin Etude "to warm my fingers" and it was pretty disastrous. The Schubert pieces were disconcerting: alongside sensitive phrasing there were whole pieces played harshly, difficult passages perfectly done were succeeded by others hectic and dishevelled. Age has affected not only the technique but also his artistic judgement and he is no longer stylish. Encores: more Schubert: Allegretto and a selection of waltzes. Back to my wonderful records.

Para el Buenos Aires Herald


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