jueves, agosto 07, 2008

Youth conquers orchestras and "Carmina Burana" shines

There's something very attractive about the adrenaline and stamina of youth orchestras. These young minds and bodies have the freshness of discovery: music flows from them without routine. There are notorious examples of superlative quality, such as the European Youth Orchestra , The National Youth Orchestra from Great Britain, and particularly the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, the crowning jewel of the extensive system of youth orchestras Venezuela has as the result of intensive work of several decades and the object of intense admiration from Simon Rattle and Claudio Abbado. Of course, spontaneity and the charm of youth count for little unless it is accompanied by rigorous training and discipline, and a sense of belonging.

They visited us under Carlos Miguel Prieto, a good Mexican conductor who comes to this city for the second time. There was an added pleasure, the presence of the great Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire, a frequent visitor here. This was a Nuova Harmonia concert at the Coliseo.

The hand programme says: "Each year YOA assembles a hundred exceptional and talented young musicians from more than twenty countries of the occidental hemisphere. They are selected in auditions and their age goes from 18 to 26-years-old. All musicians have

Prieto is with them since the YOA's inception. He holds the post of Principal Conductor of Mexico's National Symphony and of two USA regional orchestras. He is a conductor of firm technique and knowledge, as well as considerable dynamism, but he doesn't transcend to deeper areas of feeling and communication. I dislike last minute changes unless there is "force majeure", but in this case Prieto simply realized too late that the programme was short. In fact the changes made for a better evening. We lost a five-minute piece (Mozart's Overture to "Le Nozze di Figaro") and gained a half-hour important score (Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances). Prieto paid homage to León Spierer, now seventyish, great teacher who worked years ago with our National Symphony .

The programme started with the suite Robert Russell Bennett concocted from Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" (a fact absent from the programme page, which just said Gershwin). There's a better suite done by Gershwin himself called "Catfish Row"; I find Bennett's work too Broadway and he doesn't respect the original sequence of pieces. But the work is brilliant and allowed the youngsters to shine. The First Part also included Schumann's Piano Concerto in the magisterial performance by Freire, certainly one of the best heard in recent decades; in full maturity his technical means are magnificent and he phrases with taste and wisdom. He was carefully accompanied. His encore was a lovely rendering of Villalobos' tender "A lenda do caboclo".

The Rachmaninov score, in three parts, went swimmingly, its lush orchestration well reflected in Prieto's smooth conducting and the players's commitment. Finally, Ravel's "La Valse" suffered by comparisons still very much in our memory, such as Abbado/ Berlin Philharmonic, but was good enough. Their encore was crossover: Abreu's "Tico tico no fubá", done "a la Dudamel" with instrumentalists dancing while playing and even involving the audience in a demagogic turn of events. By the way, the title means this: tico tico is a bird, and "no fubá" is "in a cornfield". Curiously, they stayed on the obscured stage as the audience left the theatre, apparently chatting with each other.

Orff's "Carmina Burana" is a very well-known score, a profane cantata exalting wine and love based on the old Goliardic poems and songs. (The Goliards were ex monks that ran a dissolute life in Medieval times). The work is full of tunes and brilliant orchestration and is the sole success of the composer. It was written in 1936.

As you know, the Colón is is parlous condition; not only the closed building, but the activity of its resident orchestras, chorus and ballet has had many mishaps. One of the worst affected Festivales Musicales, who undertook with some temerity a co-production with the Colón. The bad rehearsal facilities at Unione e Benevolenza (an old centric hall) moved an already disgruntled Orquesta Estable to effect assemblies during rehearsals, a veiled strike in fact. Horacio Sanguinetti, the Colón's Director General, decided to suspend all activities of Orchestra and Choir for an indeterminate period. The intervention of authorities of Festivales managed an arrangement and the concerts were on (there were two performances at the Auditorio de Belgrano) but changing dates (Thursday and Saturday became Saturday and Sunday) and eliminating a valuable first score in the programme, Villalobos' "Bachianas Brasileiras No. 7". The consequences were dire financially for Festivales, and of course the Colón, guilty as charged, didn't compensate them.

But concerts were good. Carlos Vieu conducted with stamina, brilliancy and good tempi, and both Orchestra and Choruses (the mixed one and the children under Valdo Sciammarella) were quite satisfactory. A strange fact: Salvatore Caputo was billed as the conductor of the Choir, but he was vacationing in Italy and the unannounced conductor was really Gabriel Ayub. The baritone Luciano Garay was ill and was replaced by young Gustavo Feulien, talented and with a beautiful voice in the center and upper reaches, but weak in the lows. Eduardo Ayas mistook the way and sang the Swan Song in a shrill fortissimo instead of the required falsetto. The queen of the evening was Laura Rizzo, singing with lovely timbre and effortless high florid phrases.

Para el Buenos Aires Herald

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