miércoles, octubre 17, 2007

The wonderful paths of Baroque music

This musical season is one of the best I can remember concerning Baroque music. Its paths are indeed wonderful and we've had interpreters that communicate that wonder. Nuova Harmonia presented at the Coliseo the local debut of the Orchestra Barocca di Venezia with the great violin virtuoso Giuliano Carmignola (heard in a previous year) , whilst Pilar Golf presented that astonishing group, La Barroca del Suquía, led by another admirable violinist, Manfredo Kraemer.

The Venetian group paid homage to the greatest Italian composer of that period's instrumental music, Antonio Vivaldi; most of his production was written for the admirably accomplished girls of Venice's Ospedale della Pietá. Special bonus: most of the chosen concerti are little-known and proved fascinating. Family troubles impeded the trip to BA of the founder and director of the Venetian group, Andrea Marcon, but he had prepared them very well, for the conductorless orchestra played with unanimity and richness of expression. It is a prime historicist ensemble: gut strings, little vibrato, intense phrasing, quick tempi, fierce rhythm. Carmignola is an audacious player with strong personality; he gave us astonishing feats of fast playing with abrupt accents and there was always a sense of the dramatic. He did Vivaldi's Concerti RV 190 (rare and ample), RV 278 (in E minor) and RV 331 (G minor) and Tartini's expressive Concerto D 96. The players without Carmignola performed Vivaldi's Concerti for strings (no soloist) RV 114, 156 and 127 and Symphony RV 146. The three encores: more Vivaldi.

La Barroca del Suquía, named after the river that goes through Córdoba, is a shining example of what can be obtained with discipline and hard work under a true specialist, Manfredo Kraemer. He is a world-class historicist violinist with ample European career, but in a way what he has done in Córdoba (where he was born) is even more important: he has moulded a talented ensemble that could play in Europe with the same standing of other groups of this type. The programme started and finished with Vivaldi's greatest opus: "L'estro armonico" (Op.3); we heard Concerti grossi Nos. 3 and 10 (in the latter the quality of the four violinists was unequal . Two other works are standard repertoire: J.S.Bach's Concerto for two violins and Handel's Concerto grosso op.6 No.2. There were two worthwhile rarities: Concerto grosso No.9 by Charles Avison (based on sonatas by D. Scarlatti) and Francesco Durante's fascinating Concerto "per quartetto" No. 8, "La Pazzia" ("Madness"); indeed its first movement is so extravagant that it justifies the title. A curious Telemann piece, "The Moscovites" (from one of his incredibly numerous suites), was the encore and almost sounded twentieth century. The ensemble played very well and Kraemer was his usual admirable self, always intense and involved.

Another concert at Pilar Golf offered vocal and instrumental music of the Italian Baroque with an outfit called I Febiarmonici made up of two Chilean singers (soprano Pilar Aguilera, debut, and tenor Jaime Caicompai) and three Argentine players (Miguel de Olaso, archlute; Manuel de Olaso, harpsichord and organ; and Juan Manuel Quintana, viola da gamba and direction). The programme was very interesting: in the First Part, fragments from Monteverdi's operas "Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria" and "L'incoronazione di Poppea" plus one of his madrigals ("Zeffiro torna"), toccatas by Kapsberger for lute and by Frescobaldi for harpsichord, and songs by Tarquinio Merula and Luigi Rossi; in the Second Part, a lute piece by Gianoncelli; a beautiful cantata, "Eraclito amoroso", by Barbara Strozzi; a Pasquini Prelude played on the organ; a duet by Agostino Steffani, a Sonata by Domenico Gabrielli for gamba and continuo ; and a duet by Handel, "Caro autor di mia doglia". The players were uniformly excellent but the singers impressed more for good style rather than vocal quality.

I was rather disappointed by the debut at the Coliseo for the Mozarteum of La Capilla Real de Madrid under the Argentine Oscar Gershensohn. The First Part gave us J.S.Bach's Easter Oratorio stripped for some reason of its Prelude and Adagio and Handel's "Foundling Hospital Anthem" without its Overture ( we were told that there was some mechanical difficulty in the organ). The Second Part held some interest for it offered Spanish Baroque, still little known: the "Missa brevis de Palacio" by Francesco Corselli, and a selection from the zarzuela "Ifigenia en Tracia" by José de Nebra, where tragedy is mixed incongruously with two comical duets by characters called Mochila and Cofieta. The encore was two fragments from Bach's Cantata No.34. The results were uneven; on the instrumental side there were gross fluffs from the trumpets, though a lot was correct; on the solo vocal parts the quality was rather poor; I will only mention the best of the group, tenor Marcus Ullmann. The Chorus was generally good. Gershenson is well oriented but rather opaque in his phrasing. The interpretations lacked involvement and dynamism.

Finally, Robert Levin came back and offered the Second Part of Bach's "The Well-tempered clavier" (he had done the First Part in an earlier season) for the Bach Academy at the Museo de Arte Decorativo. He is a great instrumentalist with total command , though I was sorry that he played piano rather than harpsichord, and I found unnecessary his own contributions as a composer, short interludes between pairs of Bach Preludes and Fugues. But he is certainly a first-rate Bachian.

Para el Buenos Aires Herald

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