lunes, agosto 24, 2009

The wide world of singing

In music there's nothing quite as personal as singing. Our vocal cords are our own instrument and no two voices are exactly alike, although they can be imitated – still, no one has out-Callased Callas and no one ever will. In recent weeks we've had a wide variety of music made to be sung. This is a panorama, and I'll start with the recital of Handel's Italian cantatas and sonatas offered by María Cristina Kiehr at the Avenida for Festivales Musicales, accompanied by Les Goûts-Réunis. This is a fine instrumental historicist group made up mainly by Argentines, with such famous names as Juan Manuel Quintana (viola da gamba) and Manfredo Kraemer (violin), and its name refers to the blend of three musical "tastes": Italian, French, German. Although the complete ensemble is made up of ten players, their number varied from piece to piece. Three sonatas gave us the best chamber Handel. The Trio Sonata in G minor, HVW 390 (op. 2 No. 5), had fine work from Kraemer but some hesitant moments from oboist Diego Nadra; the ample continuo was played by Quintana, Shizuko Noeri (replacing Dolores Costoyas) in theorbo, Federico Abraham (bass) and Jorge Lavista (harpsichord). The Sonata in F, HWV 369 (op. 1 No. 11) for recorder and continuo featured beautiful playing from Rodrigo Calveyra. And the Trio Sonata in D, HWV 385, an early work, was played plausibly by recorder, oboe and continuo, again with very nice participation by Calveyra and rather faulty by Nadra. The two chosen cantatas (out of a great number), written in Rome around 1707-8, were clear examples of the early genius of the composer, who was then 22-23 yearsold. Armida abbandonata is based on Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata and the sad end of Armida's love affair with Rinaldo. Alternating recitatives and arias, this cantata for soprano, violins (Kraemer and Clara Krug) and continuo was dramatic and lovely. María Cristina Kiehr, who lives in Basel, is a specialist of this repertoire and her clear voice manages the stylistic difficulties quite well as long as either strong dramatic inflexion or strength at both ends of the register are not required, but in serene singing she warbles beautifully. To my mind she was much more comfortable in Tra le fiamme (Il consiglio), text by Benedetto Pamphili about Daedalus and his son Icarus, which has the curious condition that its initial aria is repeated at the end to stress its moral: don't go near the flames, you'll get burnt. She sang with abandon and freshness, very well accompanied by the whole ensemble. The success was such that she added two pieces; the first was Quel augel from Aci, Galatea e Polifemo (1707, on the same subject as his later Acis and Galatea); the second was a serene aria from the oratorio La Resurrezione. choral bachianas. Festivales' "daughter", the Academia Bach, presented an interesting session at the Central Methodist Church. Countertenor Martín Oro sang the premiere of Bach's Cantata No. 54, Widerstehe doch der Sünde ("Withstand Sin") as well as the brilliant Vivaldi motet Longe mala umbrae terrors ("Go away, evils and terrors of the shadows"). The cantata was written at Weimar in 1714 and is short – two arias separated by a recitative, on a Pietist text by Georg Lehms–, attractive music that can be sung by a mezzosoprano or a countertenor. The Vivaldi motet shows again that it is a mistake to confine him as an instrumental composer, when he wrote so much vital vocal music. This one, after many hurdles, ends with a resplendent Hallelujah. Oro's voice is full and satisfying in the center but often hooty in the highs, although he is a good stylist. The Soloists of the Bach Academy (six strings) under Mario Videla accompanied with crisp elegance. The concert had started with another premiere, Carl Heinrich Graun's Concerto in C minor for organ and strings: although I liked the music and Videla's playing, I disliked the sound of the organ. Scaling out. In the concert series called "La Scala fuera de La Scala," at the Auditorium Borges of the National Library, baritone Víctor Torres offered an enterprising Baroque programme accompanied by lutenist Igor Herzog. He chose sixteenth-century authors: an all-Purcell group, then three lute pieces (German Anonymous and two Italians, Alessandro Piccinini and Pietro Paolo Melli) preceding a Caccini bouquet. Although Torres wasn't in his best voice, he sang with his wonted expressiveness and good taste, and Herzog accompanied as the true artist he is. Another session in the same series provided the opportunity of appreciating a commedia madrigalesca, that late development in the history of the madrigal in which a story is told by five singers taking on a number of roles. The Conjunto Madrigalista Francisco Guerrero gave us a fine version of Adriano Banchieri's funny and stimulating Festino led with taste and humor by Néstor Andrenacci, who also sang. Two soprano recitals at the Manufactura Papelera allowed the audience to appreciate the fine vocal qualities and ample range of interests of Soledad de la Rosa and Natasha Tupin. The former gave us La mort de Cléopâtre by Berlioz, five lovely songs by Bizet and eight varied ones by Bernstein. The latter, more clearly a coloratura, stressed showpieces such as Philine's Polonaise from Thomas' Mignon or Bel raggio lusinghier from Rossini's Semiramide. Damián Ramírez (countertenor) contributed some roughish Handel and was better as Arsace to the soprano's Semiramis. César Tello accompanied poorly.

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