lunes, noviembre 05, 2007

The Phil's varied season proceeds apace

The Buenos Aires Philharmonic (the Phil) is having an interesting and varied season as programmed by Julio Palacio. Although there have been changes on the originally announced season, this is almost impossible to avoid in such an uncertain context as the Colón is going through, and all programmes have had at least one good reason to attend them, for scores of real quality and undeservedly neglected were always present. Of course, I won't harp on the lack of true auditoriums that afflicts our city but it's still true that the Gran Rex and the Coronado (of the Teatro General San Martín) are inadequate.. Any way, the medium-sized Coronado may be dry but I prefer it to the weak and colorless , enormous Gran Rex. The so-called Winter Season took place at the former hall, with non-subscription concerts.

Chilean conductor Rodolfo Fischer made a rather neutral impression in a potentially fascinating session combining musical works on Romeo and Juliet: the fantasy overture by Tchaikovsky, fragments of Suites 1 and 2 of the Prokofiev ballet and three pieces from the dramatic symphony by Berlioz. Difficult and wonderful scores, they were read with indifference though with some technical accomplishment. Fischer also conducted the following concert, where he obtained reasonable results in Grieg's two suites from "Peer Gynt" (a logical homage on the composer's centenary of his death) and Ravel's "Spanish Rhapsody". However, the most valuable choice of the evening, five parts of "Iberia" by Albéniz in the orchestrations by Fernández Arbós (some very rarely heard) , fared poorly, with many mistakes and confused textures (granted, the orchestrations are sometimes too thick).

By far the best thing in the session conducted by José Luis Castillo (debut, Spanish living in Mexico) was the vibrant "Janitzio" by Silvestre Revueltas, seven dynamic minutes played here for only the second time and after 64 years. I was disappointed that Piazzolla's "Concert de Liege" for bandoneon and guitar couldn't be played (the score didn't arrive in time) and it was replaced by the oft-repeated Concerto for bandoneon with the habitual and skillful collaboration of Néstor Marconi. Villa-Lobos' "Bachianas brasileiras No.2 is a splendid work but it was mediocrely played (especially bad intonation from the celli). Gershwin's "Cuban Overture" completed this concert of American music. Castillo seemed competent but not exciting.

Arturo Diemecke is a favorite of the Phil's players, and although this year he isn't their Principal Director he was hired for four concerts and an opera, for his talent is undoubted. I saw the general rehearsal of a very short but intellectually stimulating programme based on Faust. He started with Ginastera's "Obertura para el Fausto criollo" (a classic of Argentine music), followed with the rarely heard and valuable "Faust Overture" by Wagner, did a colorful version of Liszt's magnificent "Mephisto Waltz No.1" and finished with five pieces from that strange and imaginative socre by Berlioz, "La Damnation de Faust". In the rehearsal the Phil responded well to Diemecke's enthusiastic and accurate indications.

I wasn't so happy about Diemecke's following concert. The programme had been grossly modified; out went "Rítmica ostinata" by J.C.Paz and R.Strauss' "Four last songs" , in went some Mendelssohn ("Fingal's Cave" and "Nocturne" and "Wedding March" from "A Midsummer Night's Dream") and Elgar ("Pomp and Circumstance No.1"); and the evening's main piece, Bruckner's Symphony No. 1, was transferred to the First Part and very superficially done. It was a DAIA concert in homage to the victims of the terrorists 13 years ago.

Back at the Gran Rex for the second part of the subscription series. English conductor Jan Latham Koenig offered a short but difficult programme, with the premiere of the brief Weber Overture "Lord of the Spirits" (pleasant, no more) and of Hans Werner Henze's Symphony No. 1, who wrote ten; No.1 dates from 1947 but was revised in 1963 and 1991, for chamber orchestra and omitting one movement. It lasts only 17 minutes and is quite complex. Latham Koenig showed his mettle in this and in Franck's intense Symphony and the Phil had a good night. I unfortunately couldn't hear Latham Koenig's non-subscription concert premiering Julio Viera's "Three nocturnes", including Schubert's Symphony No. 8 ("Unfinished") and Weill's "The Seven Deadly Sins" with Ute Lemper, the greatly talented German artist.

Pedro Calderón, who was the Phil's Principal Conductor for almost 25 years, gave his Golden Jubilee concert (50 years since his first concert with the Phil). I saw the general rehearsal: a well-written premiere by Argentine composer Claudio Alsuyet (" luces"), two French works for violin and orchestra with Sami Merdinian, Argentine, substituting the French player Virginie Robilliard: Chausson's expressive Poem and Saint-Saens' "Introduction and Rondo capriccioso" (Merdinian was excellent), and Sibelius' expansive Fifth Symphony in a valuable performance.

I was badly placed in the Gran Rex's last row for the concert conducted by Jorge Rotter; the acoustics were especially irritating. But a long-awaited premiere took place: that of Nielsen's Symphony No.2, "The four temperaments". The Argentine conductor lives in Salzburg . Nielsen's very personal idiom comes in the Second Symphony to an important stage of maturity and the score impresses in many senses; it was reasonably well played. Gandini's tenuous "Eusebius", written for four chamber orchestras, was too subtle for this problematic hall. Horacio Lavandera played with his usual firm mechanism Rachmaninov's Third Concerto but his interpretation seemed to me rather wan and uninteresting.

Para el Buenos Aires Herald

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