domingo, mayo 30, 2010

Fine concerts from several institutions

            It´s important to start with the right foot as a season begins, and this year the Mozarteum Argentino did the trick: the Dresden Philharmonic visited us for  the fifth time, and this gave us a further opportunity to keep in touch with its much admired Principal Conductor, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, an old friend of Buenos Aires ( I think he has been here no less than  eight times in  more than four decades). The venue for the initial concerts was the Coliseo, and the Mozarteum will be there for the next two months, before transferring to the Colón. Unfortunately, they have accepted the uncomfortable new starting time decided by the Colón´s Director Pedro Pablo García Caffi, 8 p.m., too early for a city whose rush hour hasn´t yet  ended then, and circumstantially abetted by leftists blocking traffic in two successive days, so that concerts began at about 8,15 p.m.
            Dresden, the marvelous city on the Elbe that I visited (and reported upon) last October, boasts two quality orchestras: the Philharmonic and the Staatskapelle; the latter is the Semper Oper´s orchestra but also gives concerts. Their Phil is almost purely German and not "machista" like the Vienna and Berlin Phils: the Dresdeners have a healthy contingent of girls, and very talented ones, as shown by concertino Heike Janicke,  flutist Karin Hofmann and violist Christina Biwank, all three doing outstanding solos. The Orchestra is very compact and homogeneous, fully professional in every department; they have the German tradition in their bones and it certainly makes a difference. Under Frühbeck, who in his late seventies keeps fit and vigorous, we had orthodox and well-built versions, tending somewhat to slowness in certain bits, but always tasteful and with a fine dark bronze color ideal for Brahms, who had the lion´s part with his first two symphonies.
            I might add that the full orchestra as listed has 108 players, and that I was surprised to find as Honorary Members people long dead as Wilhelm Kempff .  It has a long tradition, for it was born in 1870. Among its more recent conductors can be mentioned Michel Plasson (who came to BA with them), Marek Janowski and Kurt Masur. Frühbeck was named in 2003. Usefully, the Mozarteum´s hand programme gives us the dates of their earlier visits: 1992, 2000, 2002 all after the Wall crumbled.
            Cellist Johannes Moser, whom I believe I heard some years ago, came along for this tour. His first contribution was  in Schumann´s Cello Concerto, a late work with an inspired main melody but afflicted by problems of structure and flagging inspiration; Moser´s generally solid technique has an Achilles´ heel in some brusque and harsh attacks, but he can also mold "pianissimo" a soulful phrase.  Although those negative aspects also appeared in Richard Strauss´ "Don Quichotte", he drew a noble portrait of the distressed knight and showed a perfect integration with the Orchestra. The almost 40-minute continuous work (Introduction, Theme, Ten Variations and Epilogue) is a marvel of orchestration and invention, containing some amazingly advanced passages for 1897, and I very much welcome its inclusion, for the cello part precludes its frequent programming, which would be certainly deserved. With fine control from Frühbeck of its myriad complications, it was a great pleasure to hear it from such a capable orchestra.
            There was a short and interesting premiere: Wolfgang Rihm¨s "Brahmsliebewalzer", Nº 2 of "Three Waltzes", a subtle transformation of his predecessor´s music done with an ear for texture  and a sense of contrast.
            Encores, all wonderful: Brahms´ Hungarian Dance Nº 5, and two Spanish pieces that Frühbeck does inimitably: the Intermezzo from "Goyescas" (Granados) and his signature piece, that irresistible Interlude from "La Boda de Luis Alonso" (Jiménez). The Dresdeners all seemed born Madrileños!
            The Stockholm Sinfonietta made its debut for Nuova Harmonia at the Coliseo. The 31 players were led by Finnish conductor Okko Kamu, who visited us twice decades ago and is now 63. I find their number rather slim  for the main symphonic items they chose, Mendelssohn´s Fourth Symphony, "Italian", and Beethoven´s Fourth, but the playing was nice and spry, though not blameless. I was very sorry that the opportunity was lost to hear some Baltic music, which is certainly what one expects from Swedish players.
            To my mind the best part of the night was the admirable playing by Stefan Arnold (German, in his forties) of Mozart´s Concerto Nº 27 for piano; pearly, precise and mindful of filling in with small cadenzas the places that are fit for that practice, the artist gave much pleasure, and he was very well accompanied. Pity that his encore was –yet again- Piazzolla (it seems that Europeans can only think of him whenever they come to Argentina), on this occasion, "Primavera".           
            The 4-minute Rachmaninov "Vocalise" was heard in a pleasant arrangement for flute, well played by Cecilie Lööken. Kamu´s encore was an engaging "Finnish tango".
            Finally, I want to put in a good word for a young Argentine pianist, Ricardo Forcinito, a pupil of Antonio Formaro. He played at the Auditorium of the Facultad de Derecho (UBA), an agreeable chamber venue of  much better acoustics than the Facultad´s main hall; every Saturday at 4 p.m. a concert is programmed there.  I lack space for a detailed analysis, but he showed a soundly based technique, concentration and good style in a varied and difficult programme.
For Buenos Aires Herald

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