domingo, enero 24, 2010

Central Europe´s thriving concert life

As readers know, I have written in recent weeks several reports about opera in Central Europe. This final article is about four concerts I could hear and they proved that classical music concerts are still abundant and of high quality in Central Europe.
On my earlier visits to Berlin I didn´t get a chance to hear concerts; in 1964 I had only three nights and I privileged opera, in 1990 I went in summer and there was no season yet. This time, although opera dominated, I managed to hear a splendid concert by the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie at the Konzerthaus. The Young German Philharmonic is certainly one of the best of its type. As to the Konzerthaus, it is a lovely nineteenth-century gold-and-white rectangular hall of very good acoustics, located in what used to be East Berlin. This concert was the culmination of the so-called Musikfest Berlin, which took place between September 3 and 21, 2009, and included several venues and marvelous orchestras such as the Concertgebouw (Jansons), the Berlin Philharmonic (Rattle), the Chicago Symphony (Haitink), the London Symphony (Gergiev). The integration of the youth orchestra, curiously enough considering its appellation, is quite cosmopolitan, with plenty of other Europeans, Orientals and Latin-Americans; I suspect that the listing of players was specific for this concert, as it included five saxophones, certainly not habitual members of a symphony orchestra. The outfit exists since 1974.

I was much impressed by the young Finnish lady conductor, Susanna Mälkki, who had a splendid rapport with the players and showed herself always precise, elegant and knowledgeable, displaying well-controlled energy in widely divergent styles. Apart from an arguably overfast Menuet, a splendid performance of Haydn´s last symphony, Nº 104, "London". Then, the 1954 Concert for trumpet and orchestra by Bernd Alois Zimmermann called "Nobody knows de trouble I see" because it´s based on that famous Negro Spiritual (by the way, the piece is going to be premiered here this year by the Buenos Aires Philharmonic). It is a successful blend of twelve-tone writing with expressive tonal material, and it was beautifully played by trumpetist Marco Blaauw and the on-their-toes orchestra. Enno Poppe (born 1969) is a new name to me; his "Markt" ("Market") is a commission of the Orchestra; a three-movement work lasting 19 minutes. A short Prelude, a second piece stressing atonal melody, and a much longer third stressing percussion instruments and accumulation of sound. The fantastic Shostakovich First Symphony written astonishingly at 19 revealed to the world a new genius, and it remains one of his best works; Mälkki gave it such impetus and coherence that everything seemed fresh and invigorating. Just one regret leaving Berlin: there were no concerts in that period at the famous Philharmonie building, supposedly one of the best acoustics in the world.

In 1967 I attended the Prazské Jaro (Prague Spring Festival) and I heard admirable concerts at different venues, including Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic, Schwarzkopf and David Oistrakh. Last October I was back, and I heard a splendid all-Martinu gala at the Státni Opera (State Opera), the other important opera house (I wrote about the Národni Dívadlo and Smetana´s "The Bartered Bride" some weeks ago). Although the Statni´s programming is mostly given over to the standard operatic international repertoire, this was a special occasion. The theatre is big and very beautiful, with a stunning plafond in rococo style. Martinu is certainly the most interesting Czech composer of the twentieth century; writing in prodigious quantity and in a variety of tonal styles, he makes me think of other prolific creators like Milhaud and Villa-Lobos.

All the music in this concert was new to me and I enjoyed it enormously. "Skála" ("The Rock"), an expressive symphonic prelude; a 5-movement orchestral suite, "Commedia dell´arte", from the opera "Theatre behind the Gate", quicksilver music of charmingly archaic feeling; the sprightly "Saltarello" from the opera "Mirandolina"; two admirable fragments from the opera "Ariadna"; the world premiere of the youthful "Nocturne Nº 1"; and the big 35-minute "Czech Rhapsody", in a language close to Suk´s. Three solid singers: soprano Simona Houda-Saturová (who sang the Queen of Night at the Colón), baritone Svatopluk Sem and tenor Martin Srejma; the organist Daniela Valtová Kosinová; the Choir (choirmasters, Tvrtko Karlovic and Adolf Melichar) and Orchestra of the Prague State Opera, all under the vibrant and talented conductor Charles Olivieri-Munroe, Maltese.

Budapest, my first visit to that attractive city. The marvelous Palace of Arts inaugurated in 2005 boasts among other buildings the Bartók National Concert Hall, beautifully designed along modern lines, quite ample and of satisfying acoustics. I heard the National Philharmonic (Nemzeti Filharmonikusok) under Zoltan Kocsis in a Classicist programme done with an appropriately reduced orchestra: Haydn´s rarely played Symphony Nº 87, Mozart´s Piano Concerto Nº 12, K.414 (with Kocsis) and Beethoven´s famous Seventh Symphony. Accurate, clean and stylish playing from orchestra and soloist.

Finally, my beloved Vienna and its legendary concert hall, the Musikverein. The Vienna Symphony was conducted by the American Leonard Slatkin in a substantial programme that included Ives´ "The Unanswered Question", Shostakovich´s Second Cello Concerto and Dvorák´s Ninth Symphony, "From the New World". High-level music-making throughout, with special enthusiasm for the Argentine Sol Gabetta, certainly one of the best cellists the world has.

Vienna has a myriad of concerts each week, at the Musikverein, the Konzerthaus and many churches. The Hofburgkapelle gives a different mass each Sunday with the Vienna Choir Boys.

For Buenos Aires Herald

No hay comentarios.: