viernes, junio 06, 2008

Barenboim and the Berliners top of the year

Fotos Geraldine Bardin

You may think that I’m rash in proclaiming in early June that Daniel Barenboim and his Berliners are top of the musical year, but I feel pretty sure that nothing else of the season will dislodge them from that position. The love affair of the Argentine-born –but thoroughly cosmopolitan- artist with his country of origin has been growing steadily in recent years, as his own fame has ballooned to stratospheric heights the world over and distinctions of all kinds keep being showered over him.

There’s an important background to this particular visit with the Berliner Staatskapelle. Three years ago Aníbal Ibarra, then the City’s Chief of Government, visited Berlin and signed with the local authorities a “bond of brotherhood” between the German city and Buenos Aires. It was then announced that the full Berlin State Opera (Unter den Linden) would visit our city and would present two operas under Barenboim’s leadership during the Colón centenary season in 2008. Only a few months later Marcelo Lombardero, then the Colón’s Artistic Director, said that it wouldn’t happen, that it was much too expensive and that Barenboim understood the situation... All this many months before the Master Plan exploded and the truth came out: the Colón would be closed in 2008.

But the Mozarteum Argentino, that marvelous institution that had been the channel of all recent visits by Barenboim (both as pianist and conductor), knew that he wanted to come; if the full Opera couldn’t be here, at least the Opera’s orchestra, the Staatskapelle, would be present. When late last season the Mozarteum announced this visit, I was overjoyed, for the orchestra had played Beethoven here with Barenboim long ago and it had been a halcyon occasion. As the programs were announced, I was stunned: in two subscription concerts and one non-subscription, at the Coliseo, the three last Bruckner symphonies each coupled with a substantial Schoenberg score. An immense intellectual and musical challenge of high technical, aesthetical and emotional level, these sessions also showed great confidence in the maturity of the Mozarteum’s audiences, for the works are certainly anything but easy.
I have only one quibble and I want to get it over with: unfortunately one of the Schoenberg pieces was eliminated, “Transfigured night”, which was supposedly coupled with Symphony No. 7; instead we heard the “Five orchestral pieces” op. 16 , originally coupled with Symphony No. 8, and the latter was left all by itself in the second programme. Apparently Barenboim felt that the load of work was too high and changed his mind very late in the game.

I have long been a convinced promoter of the Bruckner symphonies and I have no doubt that the last three are the best. As a reviewer I had the privilege of hearing the complete sequence and I was left full of admiration for the music and the interpretation. These scores have their problems of access due to their particular construction: an amazing buildup of tension to a climax followed by a “pianissimo” chamber episode which eventually leads to another culmination, and so on. A succession of waves rather one big wave. They crucially depend on the conductor’s ability to give coherence to the disparate parts, and this was Barenboim’s strongest point: the way he administered tensions and releases with total naturalness , the sensibility of his phrasing in melodic passages coupled with granitic strength in the climaxes, the unerring choice of tempi. But all this could happen because his orchestra is so very talented (of course most members have been chosen by the conductor, whose tenure is already long, since 1992). Strings of surpassing richness and perfect intonation, clean and precise woodwinds, a brass section capable of going from “pianissimo” to “fortissimo” without losing quality, a fantastic timpani player. Sure, there were a few fluffs, quite unimportant in the deeply satisfying totality.

And Schoenberg? Well, he’s a tough one. The expressionistic Five Pieces are almost centenary (1909) but their atonality remains difficult for most listeners; however, listen with open ears and without prejudice and they are fascinating in their kaleidoscopic colors and contrasts. The Variations op.31 are even harder, purely twelve-tone, cerebral, harsh at times but also lyrical in astonishing ways. Barenboim was both analytical and passionate and he conducted all with the total command of his incredible memory; the orchestra played with clarity and involvement. There were no encores in the series of concerts and none were needed.
An extra concert was somehow concocted and presented at the Luna Park as a homage to the Colón. With acceptable amplification, but of course the acoustics are bad. Wagner in the First Part: perfect interpretations of the Overture to “The Mastersingers” and the “Prelude and Love-Death” from “Tristan and Isolde”, operas which Barenboim “owns”, so to speak. And the Mahler Fifth Symphony (which he had done here in the ‘80s with the Orchestre de Paris), whose colossal hurdles were sorted out with admirable skill by conductor and orchestra. A surprise at the end: strong words by Barenboim summoned “the responsible and irresponsible that have kept closed the Colón” to have the theatre ready in 2010, when he and his orchestra would be willing to come back. He then made reference to our hymn, and he said : “the laurels must be conquered very day!”. And he conducted a beautiful execution of the hymn.

Para el Buenos Aires Herald

No hay comentarios.: