miércoles, junio 27, 2012

Splendid Britten and admirable visitors

            Benjamin Britten´s "The turn of the screw" was admirably presented by Juventus Lyrica at the Avenida. Nuova Harmonia brought back the National Symphony of Washington D.C. in full form and the Mozarteum gave us the world-class Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire, both at the Colón. 
            "The turn of the screw" is arguably one of the best Britten operas. Based on a sinister tale written in 1898 by Henry James, it was very intelligently adapted in the libretto by Myfanwy Piper. In two taut acts of one hour each, the librettist and the composer tell us cogently a ghost story in a prologue and sixteen tableaux (eight in each act). In fact James departs from his usual style and produces for the only time in his career a novella of supernatural connotations. "A masterpiece of horror" (Collier´s Encyclopedia), yes, but not gory; subtle, ambiguous, psychological, terrible in its implications but never melodramatic, this story of two children under the influence of malevolent ghosts is compelling. 
 Britten´s music is a perfect foil; the swift action is joined by interludes of great unity for they are variations of the same melody, and the characters get music that fits them like a glove. Particularly haunting are the melismas on "Miles"  sung by Quint, the ghost that was in life a domestic that had molested the boy.  The spell is broken at the end after a tug-of-war between Quint and the Governess for the control of Miles´ mind, but at the cost of the boy´s life. "The ceremony of innocence is drowned" (W.B.Yeats).
The opera dates from 1954, after "Gloriana" and before "Noye´s Fludde". Our city saw its premiere under Roberto Kinsky in Amigos de la Música´s season, and the opera was later offered at least once. 
  This "Turn of the screw" is a complete success, certainly a landmark in Juventus Lyrica´s trajectory, a rare blend of carefully chosen cast and completely apposite staging. On very functional stage designs and lighting by Gonzalo Córdova, María Jaunarena (daughter of Ana D´Anna and Horacio Jaunarena) does her first production after years of being costume designer and executive directress for Juventus. Her costumes were perfect for the characters and her whole approach to the action was completely attuned to the libretto´s every detail. Maybe the lighting could have created a more ghostly aura around Quint and Miss Jessel, but otherwise this was as good a staging as can be imagined: theatrical but not melodramatic.
Chilean soprano Macarena Valenzuela has done some talented jobs for Juventus, but I believe her Governess is the best thing yet: completely immersed in the character´s gradual realisation of the ghostly influence, not only her singing was beautiful and her presence totally natural, but she gave dramatic strength even to isolated words by psychological insight. Carlos Ullán was notable as Quint, with fluid command of florid singing and the right inflexions. Britten asks for a boy soprano to sing Miles, but it´s a long part in English and probably Juventus´ solution is the best here: they found a mezzosoprano that can look and sound like a kid  and act it with complete verisimilitude; she is Cecilia Pastawski and was outstanding and moving in every respect.  Soledad de la Rosa was very good as Mrs. Grose and Mariana Mederos a fresh Flora. One step down were the contributions of Eugenia Fuente, a Miss Jessel of excessive vibrato, and Paolo Spagnolo in the Prologue. The English pronunciation was reasonably good all around. The 15-member orchestra was very accurate under the convincing conducting of André Dos Santos.
I have a soft spot for the National Symphony of Washington D.C., as I spent two years in the USA capital as a student (1956-7) and the NSW was "my" orchestra. Curiously the following year (1958) led by their American conductor, Howard Mitchell, they were in BA.  Many years later they were back under Rostropovich for the Mozarteum, when they were acclaimed. And now they came at the Colón for the cycle of Nuova Harmonia, led by their current Principal Conductor Christoph Eschenbach. He had been here as a pianist way back in the seventies and in recent years was appreciated as a conductor with a German orchestra.
Alas, the programme was very run-of-the-mill: "Roman Carnival Overture" by Berlioz; the R. Strauss Suite from "Der Rosenkavalier"; and Beethoven´s Seventh Symphony. At least one work should have been from the States. Eschenbach is a solid conductor, with very orthodox ideas, and the Orchestra is first-rate in the USA mold, tending to brilliance rather than mahogany hues as in Europe. Apart from some horn fluffs in Strauss, the playing was uniformly very good. Encores: "Gypsy Dance" from Bizet´s "Carmen", Brahms´  First Hungarian Dance and the "Thunder and lightning" polca by Johann Strauss II.
Nelson Freire has long been known here as the best Brazilian pianist. In his Mozarteum recital he validated this concept with a programme of standards, excepting two pieces by Villalobos: Mozart´s Sonata Nº 11, the one with the "Turkish March": Beethoven´s "Moonlight Sonata"; Schumann´s "Scenes from Childhood"; and from Chopin, the Barcarolle, Nocturne Nº 17 and Scherzo Nº 4. From Villalobos: Prelude to "Bachianas Brasileiras Nº 4" and "Chôros Nº5". Encores: Granados´ "La maja y el ruiseñor", Villalobos´ "O ginete do pierrozinho" and Debussy´s "The Hills of Anacapri".  Uniformly impeccable style and execution with no loss of quality throughout in a masterful recital.
For Buenos Aires Herald

sábado, junio 23, 2012

“Rinaldo”: Händel´s brilliant return at the Colón

            Have it the German way, Georg Friedrich Händel, or as the Britishers say, George Frideric (or Frederick) Handel. In both cases you are dealing with the other great German Baroque composer (need I say that Johann Sebastian Bach is the first?). Born the same year as Bach (1685), he outlived the Leipzig Kantor by nine years, dying in 1759. He left behind 42 operas, 25 oratorios, the "Water Music", the "Royal Fireworks  Music", the Concerti grossi op.3 and 6, loads of cantatas, several odes, 18 organ concerti, etc.  
           I visited his house in Halle (Saxony), now a museum. From the city of his birth he went to Hamburg, where he wrote his first operas  for the Gänsemarkt Theatre, and then went to Italy and absorbed the Italian style in operas such as "Agrippina", before  going to London and having such a success with "Rinaldo" that he decided to make the English capital his home from then on. And this is precisely the opera with which the Colón, after an unconscionable and absurd lapse of 41 years, has returned to Händel, the greatest Baroque opera composer. 
            Indeed, the Colón offered "Giulio Cesare" with Beverly Sills and Norman Treigle in 1966 and the following year, "Serse", both conducted by Karl Richter. It was a reasonable attempt at authenticity at a time when the Händel boom was just beginning. There had been specialist Händel Festivals in Halle, Karlsruhe and Göttingen, and a few recordings whetted the appetite. But in the following decades more and more of his operas were rescued from oblivion at the theatre and in an increasing number of recordings, much augmented with the CD era. And then came the videos and the DVDs. Unfortunately many productions followed the disastrous modernist trend and only a few tried to give us true Baroque. And in Argentina we had to suffer the abominable "Giulio Cesare" presented at La Plata´s Argentino.
            In fact, "Giulio Cesare" was premiered back in 1959 by the Asociación de Conciertos de Cámara, the first Händel in BA. In recent years we have to thank Buenos Aires Lírica for the premieres of staged versions of "Agrippina" and "Rodelinda" and the revival of "Serse". A well-intentioned but poor student group premiered "Alcina" last year. So the first performances in Argentina of "Rinaldo" are very welcome. However, it was a concert version which made the already appalling prices for stalls and loges even less acceptable, for a production may be good or bad but it is costly. On the other hand, considering the quality of production nowadays all over the world, it may have been for the better to just have the music.  
            The good baroque theatres of Händel´s time had the capacity to show us the fantasies of librettos such as that of "Rinaldo", by Giacomo Rossi based on Aaron Hill and inspired by Torquato Tasso´s "La Gerusalemme liberata". Indeed, the evokation of Alcina´s magic island needs what they called machines: the audience of those years wanted to see  transformations , volcanos, dragons, earthquakes, gods descending seated on clouds; and we have contemporary descriptions of how those effects were obtained. A true Baroque staging has to keep that ambience; it´s alright to use current technology as long as you obtain similar results. But alas, such productions are "rara avis", and there´s no satisfactory alternative. So, a concert version; you may think that it is boring, but the beauty and power of the music is such that what you have is an extended splendid concert if the right artists are available; and on this occasion they were.
            "Rinaldo" narrates a convoluted story concerning three crusaders, Rinaldo,  Goffredo and Eustazio, the sorceress Armida, Argante the Saracen King and Almirena (Goffredo´s daughter), plus incidental appearances  of two sirens, a herald and a magician. Love and hate are essential, as in most baroque operas, plus the sorceress´ transformations of other beings, assorted monsters as her retinue,etc. Händel operas are long (generally over three hours); this interpretation had about twenty minutes of cuts but still ran for 170 minutes plus two intervals. It didn´t feel long for me, but I´m a confessed Händel enthusiast. And the music is simply marvelous. Granted, the formal structure is basically recitatives and arias, with only a few duos as a relief and a final "chorus" made up of the soloists, plus some imaginative purely orchestral music. But there´s not a weak piece, and some are fantastic.  
            The level of singing and playing was very high. Of course there´s no way to do Händel operas as they were originally for there are no "castrati" available...and I can´t suppose that singers will be so historicist that they will allow mutilation just to be truer to the Baroque tradition. So we make do with countertenors or mezzosopranos and contraltos for the castrati roles. 
            Fagioli is a major star in Europe and with good reason. His singing, if you like his very special timbre, was truly virtuoso and showed an astonishing high register. After too many years, we heard Verónica Cangemi, another Argentinian famous in Europe, in an operatic role; her Almirena was beautiful: expressive in "Lascia ch´io pianga", exquisite in "Augelletti", fluid in the florid passages with a lovely sound. Torres did a vivid Argante, well acted  even in a concert and articulated with skill. Daniel Taylor sang a sensitive Goffredo, more contained than Fagioli. Damián Ramírez overdid the gestures and mannerisms in his Eustazio but sang well. Lettish soprano Inessa Galante (debut) exaggerated the shrillness in Armida´s outbursts but otherwise had good vocal moments. Marisú Pavón and Oriana Favaro were fine Sirens, countertenor Lucas Villalba did a correct Magician and Gabriel Centeno (tenor) was a pallid Herald.
            I was much impressed by the orchestral work of the "Estable". Of course, the strings used were modern, not gut (they aren´t a specialist Baroque outfit), but the sound remained Baroque due to Haselboeck´s strong dynamic accents, finely chosen tempi and constant support of the singers. Beautiful work from the added theorbos and recorders (fantastic the soloist in sopranino), splendid execution from harpsichordist Norberto Broggini doing what Händel himself did in the world premiere, lovely sound and phrasing from oboist Rubén Albornoz and a very good trumpet quartet.
            More, please!

The versatile Teatro Argentino: from zarzuela to Mahler

            As readers know through earlier articles, La Plata´s Teatro Argentino is functioning as a full-range center for opera, ballet and concerts.  Their productions can be seen not only at the big Sala Ginastera (over 2.000 capacity) but also at the Sala Piazzolla (of chamber size) and at the TACEC, a basement dedicated to experimentation. Before its inauguration the Argentino had to live for many years at makeshift venues such as the Teatro Rocha, due to the sad fire that ruined the beautiful Italian-model theatre that existed where now the immense brutalist cube of the Argentino stands.  
            In  recent years a powerful team has taken over: Leandro Iglesias as General Administrator, Marcelo Lombardero as Artistic Director and Alejo Pérez as Conductor of the Resident ("Estable") Orchestra.  Many good things come from the years when Daniel Suárez Marzal was Artistic Director: especially interesting repertoires with valuable exhumations, quality productions and well chosen casts. But in all these aspects, certainly helped by substantial budgets and the increase of personnel, the Argentino is now a major theatre where the negative connotation of "provincial" has disappeared. It is  a serious rival to the Colón, and considering that it takes only an hour under reasonable traffic conditions to go from Palermo to the Argentino, music lovers from our capital certainly schedule visits to the "platense" organisation. 
            Its dependence on the so-called Instituto Cultural of the Province had some rough rides in the past but in recent years the relationship has worked smoothly. In fact now the Argentino is as complex as the Colón. They both have resident orchestra, chorus and ballet (the difference lies at the Colón, where another orchestra is added, the B.A. Philharmonic), integrated production, a student area (the ISA at the Colón, the Opera Studio and the School of Arts and Crafts at the Argentino), experimentation centers , administration. I thought years ago that the huge Argentino had only two possible destinies: a white elephant, or its growth to the level of a first-rate national center; fortunately, this is what has happened. 
            All this doesn´t mean that I agree on all points with the current team: I certainly feel that their habitual adhesion to distorted opera production in the unfortunate European mold has led to aberrations such as their presentations of "Giulio Cesare" and "Lucia di Lammermoor". But the technical quality has been impeccable even in those misconceived productions, and the sheer size of the stage permits full-scale presentations. If the audience has the good fortune of witnessing a team that respects the chosen piece and does it with freshness, splendid visuals and a theatrical sense, you have the true success the Argentino has had with the recent "Doña Francisquita", certainly the best zarzuela production of the last decade easily available to a "porteño". 
            The Argentino hasn´t done a zarzuela since the "Doña Francisquita" staged at the Teatro Rocha in 1989. A warm welcome to the return of the genre under such good auspices.  This famous zarzuela is the best of the prolific Amadeo Vives. It was written in 1924 and became an immediate success. For good reason: the libretto of Federico Romero and Guillermo Fernández Shaw, on Lope de Vega´s "La discreta enamorada", has charm, wit and rhythm; and the music has memorable melodies. In Argentina we have the problem of finding local artists that can give an authentic "Madrileño" flavor, especially in the extensive spoken bits ("cuadros de letra").  
            The first cast was reasonably up to the requirements. Marisú Pavón is very Spanish in her style and has the technique for the florid fragments, notwithstanding a touch of unwelcome acidity. Alas, although Mónica Sardi is a beautiful woman, she lacks the earthiness required by Aurora La Beltrana. A splendid Mexican tenor, Ricardo Bernal, made his debut as a wholly convincing Fernando. Santiago Bürgi was fine in the humoristic part of Cardona. Luis Gaeta was masterful as Don Matías and Marta Cullerés funny and natural as Doña Francisca. Nice contributions from Ricardo Crampton, Patricio Olivera, María Luisa Merino Ronda and the three "cofrades" of the Carnival celebration (Arnaldo Quiroga, Mirko Tomas and Alberto Jáuregui Lorda). Excellent the group of dancers in the pleasant choreography by Nuria Castejón. An alert orchestra responded admirably to Guillermo Brizzio´s idiomatic conducting, and the choir under Miguel Martínez was very good. 
            But the highest spot goes to the producer Jaime Martorell, in a lavish production with Carnival actors, air balloon, beautiful and varied costumes (Pedro Moreno), brilliant lighting (Horacio Pantano) and an imaginative stage design by Daniel Feijóo, with buildings moving about the stage and creating different ambiences. 
         From the lightness of the zarzuela to the metaphysical and anguished world of Gustav Mahler. Showing again the great talent of Alejo Pérez, and the current good condition of the Orchestra, they tackled Mahler´s Fifth Symphony, the one with the sublime Adagietto for strings and harp.  It has been heard recently in BA by a crack orchestra, the Deutsche Symphonie, under Ashkenazy. In sheer orchestral splendor and accuracy, of course the Berliners are ahead, but what astonished me was how much of this enormously complex score could be heard, with admirable trumpet work at the very beginning, and from then on, clean, no-nonsense conducting and playing. I was  sorry to miss due to a mistake (mine) on starting time Beethoven´s Triple Concerto with Antonio Formaro (piano), Fernando Favero (violin) and Siro Bellisomi (cello).
For Buenos Aires Herald

sábado, junio 16, 2012

A varied panorama of our orchestras

            The Buenos Aires Philharmonic went on with its season with two concerts. The first was given twice, for Festivales Musicales and for the Phil´s subscription series. I wrote enthusiastically weeks ago about the debut of cellist Leonard Elschenbroich for Festivales as part of a brilliant trio, so I had great expectations about his playing in Dvorák´s Cello Concerto. I was told later that he had a gruesomely intense week of performing dates and arrived from London only the day before. That may account for the fact that his sound was smaller and less attractive than in the Trio, and his technique not quite so clean. It was good but lacked panache and brilliance, as well as fat timbre. And the Phil under Guillermo Scarabino was no more than correct. 
            Before the Dvorák we heard a nice execution of "El tarco en flor", the always fresh symphonic poem by Luis Gianneo ("tarco" is tucumano for jacaranda). After the intermission, the first movement of Tchaikovsky´s Fourth Symphony sounded labored and uninspired. The following Andantino was better, but both the Phil and the conductor only came to their better levels in a very accurate Scherzo pizzicato and a truly festal Finale.  Frankly the programme was too hackneyed. And the ill-timed applause after the first movements of Concerto and Symphony showed that Festivales´ audience is now less knowledgeable than of yore.
            The following session was supposed to be conducted by the veteran Brazilian Isaac Karabtchevsky but he fell ill and was replaced by Ira Levin, who took on the two main scores without change, but substituted Gomes´ Overture to "Il Guarany" by Wagner´s Overture (or Prelude to the First Act) of "The Mastersingers" in a so-so performance.  However, the rest of the night was quite attractive. Lithe and beautiful Japanese violinist Akiko Suwanei had premiered here some years ago Penderecki´s Second Concerto and now she again provided a valuable premiere: that of Henri Dutilleux´s Violin Concerto "The tree of dreams". It was written in 1985 for Isaac Stern; the composer is now 96 and has long been one of France´s more original voices. 
            Said Dutilleux: "the score is developed as if it were a tree for it possesses a poetry whose ramifications are constantly multiplied and renewed... Its four parts are laced together by three interludes...The soloist and the orchestra are in intimate mutual dependence". I found the music full of interesting sounds and refined beauty in a language of advanced modern harmony. And it was not only lovingly played by an accomplished Suwanai but also accompanied with insight and command by Levin, certainly a resourceful maestro. Suwanai offered an encore, the Largo from Bach´s Third Solo Sonata, in a very pure reading. 
            And indeed Levin shone in Dvorák´s Sixth Symphony, heard some weeks before in a very good performance by Calderón and the National Symphony.  But this interpretation was even better in its contrasts and cunning handling of dynamics and tempi. This is heart-warming music. But I see no reason to give an encore in a regular symphonic series and the Furiant was offered again.
            The Principal Conductor of the Mar del Plata Symphony, Guillermo Becerra, was at the helm of the National Symphony for an uneven programme. The First Part was dicey because of the chosen works, although they were reasonably well-played. Cecilia Pereyra is a young Argentine composer who won the SADAIC 2011 award for her "Y su sombra...", premiered on this occasion. Says Pereyra: "the basic point of this score is the expression and exploration of orchestral timbre...The harmonic world includes chromaticism and microtonality...The changes of color and intensity are the true axes of the time progression".  She has a true command of her materials, but I confess that I´m not attracted by this aesthetics.
            The Schumann Violin Concerto was finished months away from his attempted suicide, and it was only in 1937 that Georg Kulenkampff exhumed it. The murkiness both in form and orchestration is relieved by occasional felicitous ideas, but only the slow movement is really attractive. It was very correctly played by Demir Lulja but this music needs an animation that he didn´t provide. He gave us an interesting encore from an Albanian composer, Pjeter Gaci, a well-written Ballad (Lulja is Albanian).
            But the Second Part was really exciting, a very intelligently conceived reading of that masterpiece, Saint-Saëns´ Third Symphony. As unfortunately no concert hall in the city has a pipe organ, Luis Caparra had to use an electric instrument. The organ part is small but important.  Becerra is  a very controlled conductor who knows what he wants and how to get it and the orchestra responded admirably.
            I am sorry to say that I was disappointed by the following concert, based on the presence of pianist Bruno Gelber. Unfortunately his notorious physical problems are affecting his playing, and his interpretation of Tchaikovsky´s First Concerto was too rough-and-ready. Last year I was astonished by his Rachmaninov, but since then his problems have increased a lot. Of course I am writing about one of our greatest pianists and he declines from a high place. He wasn´t helped by a noisy orchestra led by Pedro Calderón.
            The programme was absurdly short. After a routine performance of J.J.Castro´s Overture to "La zapatera prodigiosa" we only heard Enesco´s First Romanian Rhapsody, certainly welcome and lovely, in a convincing interpretation. We had 55 minutes of music altogether. The concert was repeated the following Friday.

For Buenos Aires Herald

miércoles, junio 13, 2012

Two “Normas” in two weeks

            There have been some curious coincidences in recent years concerning opera programming, such as the year in which two theatres put on "La Traviata" in the same week. Now in the space of two weeks we´ve seen two Bellini "Normas". The first was a one-night benefit performance at the Coliseo, the second a regular subscription series of four evenings at the Avenida organised by Buenos Aires Lírica.          The box office results for the benefit were splendid, a practically full Coliseo, which is pretty big; a good thing for the organisers, Santa María Reina del Cielo, a missionary and educational civil association. The amateur Regina Coeli choir, prepared by Ezequiel Fautario, isn´t accustomed to operatic performances; although they were well prepared, the voices are of unequal quality.  Its size was adequate, 66-strong, but the sound that came out felt too raw. The ad-hoc Orchestra was very uneven in intonation and proficiency, even if some instrumentalists have an important trajectory, and not even Mario Perusso´s long experience could put things right in many passages, although speeds were well chosen and supportive of the singers. It was also rather small (41 players); the Coliseo possesses a large pit. 
            Two grave mistakes: the frequent mishandling  of the supertitles´ projection, and the uncalled-for and unannounced interval before the last scene of the First Act and after the initial scene of the Second Act disconcerted the public and with good reason, provoking the return in troves of a good part of the audience when the music had already resumed. 
            Jorge Luis Podestá, a true fan of singers for decades, came late to opera production, but he had already done "Norma" in 2003. This time he had to make do with little money, and so there was no scenography, just a few low platforms,  the collaboration of Mariela Daga with good traditional tunics and dresses and simple but effective lighting by Oscar Bonardi. As Podestá is a firm advocate of bel canto and respects it, what he did was conventional but right, with the final minute (Norma and Pollione a brought to the sacrificial pyre) particularly well handled. 
            This story of a Druid priestess in love with a Roman Proconsul, circa 50 B.C. in  Gaul , elicited from Bellini his most beautiful melodies as well as most dramatic scenes. The total identification  in voice and interpretation of Maria Callas with Norma made her a paradigm for succeeding ages and I can´t help hearing her in my inner mind each time I go to a "Norma".  I believe Haydée Dabusti is certainly our best Norma and in her own terms provides a very enjoyable performance; her voice took a little time to settle down and in "Casta diva" wasn´t at her best, but in succeeding scenes she became more and more involved and firm, being in full command in her duets with Adalgisa. And I had a very agreeable surprise in the singing of María Florencia Machado, not only owner of a fine mezzo timbre but also of the requisite agility and ample register for this very difficult part.  
            Juan Carlos Vassallo sang Pollione sturdily with just enough metal in his timbre and satisfying highs; he is a limited actor and he gives very little nuance to his singing, however. Víctor Castells sang Oroveso rather woollily, Pablo Sánchez was an acceptable Flavio and Ana Laura Siniscalco a very subpar Clotilde. 
            I will be brief about the BAL´s "Norma" for it wasn´t a success. When in this opera the best thing is the orchestra something has gone seriously wrong. And in fact Javier Logioia Orbe´s conducting was right on, with good speeds (he avoides the longueurs one often hear in this opera), a homogeneos collective sound from a well-playing orchestra with only occasional horn fluffs and a sense of phrasing with the singers that is essential in Bellini. The chorus led by Juan Casasbellas was too small (only 26), perhaps because of the lack of space of the production imagined by Louis Désiré. It sang well in the First Act,  faltered accompanying Oroveso in "Ah dal Tebro" and recovered in the final scene. 
            Both Florencia Fabris (Norma) and Adriana Mastrangelo (Adalgisa) are singers of valuable trajectories,  but I felt them uncomfortable in this epitome of bel canto. First, both had too much vibrato; second, florid singing is more fluid though not ideal in Mastrangelo´s throat, but many passages of Norma´s writing were effortful and badly integrated in the vocal line of Fabris. They are sincere and communicative artists, but this is not the style in which they move well. 
            The import of Italian tenor Paolo Bartolucci (debut) proved erroneous; his initial scene was very poor, though he later sang with better intonation, but his line is quite uncertain and the timbre, uninteresting. He wasn´t helped by the ridiculous red costume and boots or by singing a long stretch with his hands behind his back. Christian Pellegrino as Oroveso sang with a mile-wide vibrato, Nazareth Aufe was correct as Flavio and Patricia Deleo colorless as Clotilde. 
            The producing team was made up of Désiré, Diego Méndez Casariego (stage designs), Mónica Toschi (costumes) and Rubén Daniel Conde (lighting). It was an unalloyed disaster and most of the time I couldn´t even recognize the opera. It´s hard to be so wrong but this team accomplished that feat.
For Buenos Aires Herald

sábado, junio 09, 2012

Enesco´s “Oedipe”, powerful Greek lyric tragedy

            The legend of Oedipus was brought to vivid dramatic life by Sophocles in two contrasting plays:  the terrifying "Oedipus the King" and the serene "Oedipus at Colonos". The first was considered by Aristotle in his "Poetics" as the true model of dramatic structure. And with good reason: it is taut, intense, and explores the deepest recesses of our minds and emotions. Indeed, the Freudian "Oedipus" complex is as much a symbol and a commonplace of psychoanalytic analyses as Electra. Only seven plays have survived out of a total of more than a hundred, but some of them are unforgettable and as fully contemporary as in the Age of Pericles.
            Curiously Oedipus, an enormous operatic subject potentially, has only elicited two important twentieth-century works: Stravinsky´s one-act "Oedipus Rex" and George Enesco´s "Oedipe", which has recently had its South American premiere at the Colón. Edmond Fleg, really Flegenheimer, was a French Jewish writer who had already done the interesting libretto for another valuable and un-premiered opera (in BA), Bloch´s "Macbeth". Enesco, a Romanian composer trained in Paris (he was a disciple of Fauré and Massenet), was 28 in 1909 when he saw Sophocles´  play performed in Paris and first conceived the idea of writing an opera on it. An arduous and lengthy process started when Fleg gave him the first draft of his libretto in 1913; but Enesco began the opera only in 1921 and finished it without the orchestration at the end of 1922, and played it in the apartment of his future wife, the Princess Marie Cantacuzene. However, the orchestration took an unconscionably long time and was only ended in 1932; and the premiere only came about in 1936 at the Paris Opera. It was a success and was revived a year later, but later only Bucarest, in Romanian translation, had  it in the repertoire. Recently Brussels´ Théâtre de la Monnaie presented it produced by La Fura dels Baus, and now the Catalonian group has brought it to BA. 
            To those that know Enesco only through his vivid and charming First Romanian Rhapsody (a youthful score written at only 20), the stark, expressionist "Oedipe", the composer´s favorite work, will come as a shock. It is the only opera of a not very prolific but valuable composer, author of chamber and symphonic music. Last year we heard his Second Symphony and recently several chamber pieces in a Colón Sunday morning. 
             Fleg´s libretto is ambitious, for it tells the whole story of Oedipus, from birth to death.The first two acts are based on tradition about the myth or legend of Oedipus, the last two on Sophocles´ plays. The librettist narrates well the convoluted story, in a Neoclassic versified style that contrasts with the savage force of the music. He innovates in the climactic moment of the Sphinx´s enigma: he changes Sophocles´ riddle by this statement of Oedipus: "Man is stronger than Destiny"; whereupon the Sphinx dies, Thebes is liberated and Oedipus becomes King and Yocasta´s husband. From his first appearance at 20 in the Second Act, Oedipus (it means "of the swollen feet")  fights against Destiny; he has no blame because he has always tried to avoid the oracle´s terrible prediction (he will slay  his father and commit incest with his mother) and only knows the truth at the end of the Third Act when Tiresias and the Shepherd give him the facts. Yocasta commits suicide, Oedipus blinds himself, is driven out of Thebes by Creon and the crowd. The contrasting Fourth Act, in a sacred grove at Colonos, near Athens, will put him under the protection of King Theseus and the gentle Eumenides, and he will go alone without his faithful Antigone to die a peaceful death. 
                        La Fura dels Baus presented last year a powerful production of Ligeti´s revulsive "Le grand macabre". Now they gave us a dramatically intense "Oedipe" though with some absurd extravagances, such as the Sphinx represented by a Nazi Stuka plane, and generally deplorable costumes. But some aspects were stunning, apart from their very good theatrical handling of the singer-actors. The First Act was admirable: a four-tiered mud-colored wall contained the singers and a myriad of terracotta statues, representing the Palace of Thebes. The Second Act has three contrasting tableaux, at the court of Corinth, at a crossroads (where provoked Oedipus kills his father Laios inadvertently) and in front of the walls of Thebes (the confrontation with the Sphinx). The crossroads scene is solved with virtuoso lighting and the unnecessary addition of a worker squad. The Third Act finds us in the midst of the Plague in Thebes, twenty years later, and this climactic act is given very powerfully. But the Fourth at Colonus is mishandled, for the Theban wall is still there and the sacred grove isn´t even suggested; to boot, Theseus has a ridiculous beekeeper attire. The producers were Alex Ollé and Valentina Carrasco based on Ollé´s conception: the stage images were the work of Alfons Flores, the costumes by Lluc Castells and the lighting by Peter Van Praet. 
                        Enesco asks a lot from the chorus, and the Colón Choir under Peter Burian acquitted itself brilliantly. The Orchestra responded well to Ira Levin´s accomplished conducting. And the cast coped with most of the problems. The title role is crushing, and Andrew Schroeder sang and acted with intense commitment, although he is rather short on volume and low notes. The other three foreign singers (as Schroeder, making their local debut) were good enough: Natasha Petrinsky (Yocasta) projected convincingly her short appearance; Robert Bork as Creonte was effective though overloud; and Esa Ruuttunen, with the remnants of his voice, gave tragic stature to Tiresias.  
                        The Argentine singers were a professional group. I found stunning the Sphinx of Guadalupe Barrientos, both vocally and dramatically. Several others were first-rate: Lucas Debevec as a powerful Sentinel; Gustavo Zahnstecher as a very lyrical Theseus; Enrique Folger as a commanding Laius; Gustavo López Manzitti as an anguished Shepherd with a clarion voice; Alejandro Meerapfel as a smooth-singing Forbantes; Fabián Veloz as a well-sung High Priest. A notch below due to lack of volume were Alejandra Malvino (Merope) and Victoria Gaeta (Antigone). 
                        All in all, an important challenge well met and a valuable premiere.
For Buenos Aires Herald

Capilla del Sol sings Bolivian Baroque at the Colón

            The Museo de Arte Hispanoamericano Isaac Fernández Blanco has been going from strength to strength in this last decade under the direction of Jorge Cometti, accomplished and innovative. He has renovated the whole building, added a second one, changed for the better the disposition and explanation of the extremely valuable collections. And on the musical side, led by Leila Makarius, there have been innumerable interesting concerts practically for free. But not only that: the authorities of the Museum have created the Capilla del Sol, resident ensemble of Baroque South-American music directed by Ramiro Albino. The group has worked intensively in recent seasons and has been invited to offer concerts in the provinces and abroad, particularly in the Chiquitania Festival, of which more below. And now it will offer a fascinating concert tomorrow Sunday at 11 a.m. at the Colón. Its title: "Vespers of the Feast of St Ignatius as they might have been celebrated in the Bolivian Jesuitic missions around 1750".
           Longtime readers may recall that over two years ago I wrote an article about the biannual April Festival of the Chiquitania region, an area that lies about 200 km West from Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia. I will restate the basic facts: for over a century until they were thrown out in 1767, the Jesuits did a marvelous job in their Bolivian missions; we are not generally aware that the Guarany occupied a vast area that covered regions of Argentina (especially the well-called Misiones), Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia. The missionaries of the Bolivian area were mostly from Bavaria and German- speaking Switzerland (or rather the dialect Schwyzer Deutsch). Men of vast culture and very good musicians, they taught Baroque European music to the natives and found them extremely receptive. As time went on, the Guaranys even became not only players and singers but also luthiers and composers. 
            Even after their expulsion they Jesuits had residual influence and the natives built new churches on the model they inherited and kept playing, composing and singing for a while, but eventually the churches suffered neglect and degradation and the good work fell into oblivion. But in the Twentieth Century an architect, Hans Roth, became enamoured of the region, lived there, and eventually rebuilt or renovated the churches according to what his investigations revealed. And then, something marvelous happened, as the result of the work of musicologists from different countries, including Argentina: a vast repertoire of Baroque music was found, a portion of it European but another one created there in Chiquitania. The material was gradually deciphered and partially published, to the surprise and wonder of musicians not only in South America but also in Europe. Valuable recordings ensued.  Piotr Nawrot, Polish, settled there and began a systematic publication of the rescued materials. But he also did something audacious and fascinating: he founded the biannual festival and managed to attract ensembles from many parts of the world, including Argentina of course. This is surely the most exotic Baroque Festival in the world and I had a grand time attending it in April 2010. 
            My Herald colleague Ramiro Albino was there, in his capacity as talented recorder player of a Mendoza group, and had been there before leading Capilla del Sol. We have long been friends and I  have admired the Capilla del Sol since its inception as an example of interesting and valuable Baroque repertoire done with good voices and players and particularly  with the proper style under Ramiro´s direction. The group that the Colón presents is made up of five singers and ten players, all of them specialists.
            "Vespers is the last but one of the Office hours. The service consists of the "Deus in adjutorium", five psalms each preceded by an antiphon, a hymn and the Magnificat. It is, outside of the Mass, the only service for which music other than plainsong is admitted" (Willi Apel). The vespers as concocted by Ramiro follow this general plan adding some anonymous instrumental music ("Partida de las virtudes") and an essential author of the Chiquitania repertoire, the Italian Domeinco Zipoli that worked in our Córdoba. Apart from many sacred pieces from him, the programme will include a Verset for organ. And all the rest will be by the very frequent Anonymous, principally from Chiquitania, as the Jesuit fathers were so committed to their missions that they generally didn´t sign what they composed, apart from those pieces that maybe also include the hand and mind of natives. 
            This is then a rare treat to savour.
For Buenos Aires Herald

sábado, junio 02, 2012

Great concerts from Ashkenazy and Von Stade

             Good luck is still with us as far as concertizing goes. Last week we had the return of Vladimir Ashkenazy at the helm of the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin and the presence of the much appreciated mezzosoprano Frederica Von Stade.
Ashkenazy is now in his seventies and still going strong. This was his third visit as conductor  (in his first he also played the piano). His gestual style is dynamic and visceral but a strong structural mind is constantly at work, shaping and building with almost unerring rightness. In this concert of Nuova Harmonia at the Colón he was the tour leader of a splendid orchestra he knows very well, for he was their Principal Conductor from 1989 to 1999. The Deutsches Symphonie (German Symphony) is the successor of the Berlin Radio Orchestra, itself successor to the RIAS (Radio of the American Sector).
 As you see, the changes were political: founded by Ferenc Fricsay in 1946, it became the Berlin Radio Orchestra (Western Berlin, that is) when the separate allied occupation areas disappeared, and when the Wall came down it took its current name ( I ignore if it is still a radio orchestra, their biography in the hand programme doesn´t make this point clear). Illustrious names came after Fricsay: Lorin Maazel, Riccardo Chailly (at the time they were announced by the Mozarteum but Chailly didn´t honor the commitment), Ashkenazy, Kent Nagano (2000-2006), Ingo Metzmacher (2006-2010) and currently Tugan Sokhiev, who is now here leading his other orchestra, the Toulouse Capitole, a curious coincidence.
Well, the Deutsches is a magnificent orchestra with, yes, a very German sound made of discipline, complete command of their instruments and a sense of tradition. It was sheer pleasure to hear the mahogany, unified color of the strings, the sweetness of the oboe or the wonderful precision of the solo horn and trumpet. The chosen works are masterpieces of Post-Romanticism. Richard Strauss´ "Don Juan" (1889) remains an astonishing work for a 25-year-old,  and Mahler´s Fifth Symphony (1904) is now one of his most famous.
"Don Juan " was, as it should be, brilliant, impulsive and seductive. The Fifth was intense and accurate in the first two movements (I admit I like even more Angst in the turbulent second), adapted to the constantly changing moods of the quirky Scherzo, sentimental in the right proportion in the Adagietto and exhilarating in the Rondo-Finale. This was virtuoso playing and conducting.  I could have done without the chosen encore, a tango I couldn´t place.
Frederica Von Stade has been a favorite here since her local debut in 1980 as Sesto in Mozart´s "La clemenza di Tito". She was then in her absolute prime. She came back in 1999 for an exquisite Mélisande (Debussy) and in 2001 as the merriest of widows (Lehár). Now she was back as a very welcome replacement for the ailing Susan Graham. She is now in her late sixties, has relinquished opera performances and predictably her timbre has acquired an autumnal quality, far from the brightness of her Sesto, but she keeps her full register and an innate good taste, quite rare in the USA. Plus a completely charming personality.
There was a serious side to the programme. The First Part offered Mahler interspersed with symphonic Mendelssohn. The lovely "Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen" ("Songs of a wayfarer") are best in a baritone voice or in a mezzo of more weight in her tone, but Von Stade was amazingly good in them. And I also liked her in three chosen Lieder from the collection "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" ("The Youth´s magic Horn"), two light ones ("Rheinlegendschen" -"Rhine legend"- and "Lob des hohen Verstandes" –"Praise of high understanding", in which an ass is jury of a singing match between cuckoo and nightingale) and a metaphysical song of deep import: "Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen" ("Where the beautiful trumpets sounded out"). Enrique Arturo Diemecke at the helm of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic was an understanging and subtle partner. The Mendelssohn pieces ("The Hebrides" or "Fingal´s Cave" and the Nocturne from "A Midsummmer Night´s Dream") didn´t fare so well, with too much stridency in the climax of the overture and not enough refinement from the horns in the Nocturne.
Marie-Joseph Canteloube de Malaret is only known nowadays for his charming Impressionist arrangements in four series of "Songs of the Auvergne", a characterful French region (think of Le Puy), written over thirty years from about 1925 to 1954. Von Stade chose five but in two groups. The first was preceded by Saint-Saëns' "Bacchanale" from "Samson and Delilah", an exotic Orientalistic piece offered by Diemecke with much impetus and by a Phil that visibly enjoyed the vivid music. Then came the atmospheric "Bailèro" (Shepherds´ song), the descriptive "La fiolairé" ("The weaver") and the humoristic "Chut, chut" ("Sh, sh"), all three love songs in Auvergnat. Von Stade displayed her art and insight, always suggesting rather than underlining.
It was agreeable to hear the rarely done "Escales" (1923) by Jacques Ibert, three colorful ports of call. Finally, two other Canteloube pieces: "Uno jionto postouro" ("A beautiful shepherdess") and "Lou coucut" ("The cuckoo"), the first is a sad love song and the second is onomatopoeic. The encores: Williams´"Vidalita", a sensitive gesture from the artist, and one of her hits, "Ah! Quel dîner" from Offenbach´s "La Périchole", where the protagonist is roaring drunk. Farewell, Frederica, you will be missed.
For Buenos Aires Herald

The world of dance from “La bayadère” to “3º Étage”

            Marius Petipa´s "La Bayadère", on music by Ludwig Minkus, is one of the great classic ballets, but it arrived quite late to our country. Only in the 1980s Natalia Makarova brought her version to the Colón. And the Teatro Argentino presented Luis Ortigoza´s revision in 2007, also offered in 2008 and 2009, and now again. It was curious that Eleonora Cassano, in her final year on the stage, danced only the first of four performances as Nikiya, the bayadere, but she will be doing several more at the Luna Park in June with the Argentino troupe, and in those she will be partnered by Thiago Soares, who –also curiously- danced twice the role of Solor at the Argentino, but with Julieta Paul as Nikiya. 
            Ortigoza makes in the hand programme a pretty big statement: " La Bayadère" is the most perfect classic ballet ever built, the greatest legacy of Marius Petipa´s genius. Others have concurred in this appreciation, on purely choreographic terms. I must admit I can´t enthuse quite so much. Not only the plot has weak patches but Minkus´ music is banal most of the time, though efficient in its adaptation to Petipa´s precise instructions. Some bits go beyond superficial attraction, but there´s too much of a sameness in this string of waltzes, other dances and "pas d´actions" (purely gestual music accompanying narrative passages).  It is arranged and orchestrated by Albena Dobreva.
            So what matters is Petipa. The bayaderes or devadasis were religious dancers of India´s brahmanic culture and a famous poem by Kalidasa inspired Occidental authors such as Thomas Moore ("Lalla Rookh") or Théophile Gautier; they in turn were the basis for ballets by Jules Perrot (on Moore) or Lucien Petipa (on Gautier: "Sakuntala", music by Reyer). Lucien, brother of Marius, brought to the latter´s attention the subject of the bayadere and her love story with Solor was developed. The plot also involves Gamzatti, the Raja´s daughter promised to marry Solor as a reward for the great exploits of the warrior ( similar to "Aida"). Gamzatti will finally kill Nikiya with a snake hid by a bunch of flowers (similar to "Adriana Lecouvreur"). And in an opium dream the enamoured Solor will see Nikiya in the reign of Shadows (as in "Giselle"). Finally, the angry gods will destroy the temple (as in "Samson and Delilah"). And the souls of Nikiya and Solor will be reunited (as in "The fleeing Hollander"). Oh well, Romantic times...
            And yes, the steps are beautiful. All the classical vocabulary is displayed brilliantly in solos, duos and ensembles. Especially famous is the stately Ballet of the Shadows, symmetry elevated to finest art. Ortigoza tells us that he added dances of warriors and priests but Petipa´s style is always preserved. His version was revived on this occasion by Sabina Streiff. I like their work even if I prefer Makarova.  
            I saw this presentation in other occasions and it is indeed handsome, proving again the quality of the Argentino´s workshops. Stage designs by Fabián Giménez and the costumes by Viviana Serafini, well-lit by Esteban Ivanec, give us an exotic India with Mogol features. The well-playing orchestra was led with much taste and style by Carlos Calleja.
            It was a great pleasure to appreciate the command and personality of the dancers. Eleonora Cassano is still admirable and will end her career in a few months when she hasn´t lost possession of her qualities, as intelligent artists do. Her partner, Bautista Parada, was dexterous and firm, and Aldana Bidegaray was an attractive Gamzatti. Esteban Schenone dazzled the audience as the Gold Idol, with fine physique and impeccable execution. A very well drilled Corps de Ballet and dancer-actors in roles such as the Rajah and the Grand Brahmin completed a fine evening.
            A new venture started at the Coliseo. It is called the "Abono Ars de Ballet" produced  by the Grupo Ars made up of Liliana Vinacur, Diego Radivoy and...Martín Boschet (yes, the controversial co-Director of the Colón during the Horacio Sanguinetti period). Boschet was known for his special interest in ballet back then.
            It started with 3e Étage, an ensemble of dancers of the Paris Opera directed by Samuel Murez, and the programme is called Nouvelles Virtuosités. Alas, one of its main points of interest was the "rentrée" of the brilliant Ludmila Pagliero, the Argentinian recently named "étoile" of the Paris Opera Ballet and fondly remembered by her Sleeping Beauty some years back at the Argentino;  an unfortunate lesion prevented her appearance and forced a change of programme. There were two performances and I saw the second, with a 25-minute wait due to lighting adjustments (announced by Murez).
            As the hand programme gave no inkling of who danced what, I can only say that apart from Pagliero ten dancers were listed (including Murez) and were uniformly excellent, "third floor" ("3e étage") ex corps de ballet members that are now stars. The music was all recorded. Murez was the author of all choreographies except one, under his own name or the pseudonym Raul Zeummes. We also saw an excerpt from William Forsythe´s "Limbs Theorem".  Murez states: "3e Étage expresses a line of work that is irreverent, entertaining and theatrical, with a sense of humor that includes making fun of ourselves".  So there´s a lot of mimics, offbeat humor, sheer theatre, along with very difficult and acrobatic dancing. The biggest clown is Murez himself.
 As  dancing I particularly enjoyed the frenetic first number, "Dance infernale" on Meyerbeer as transcribed by Liszt (not as the hand programme said, "Liszt interpreted by Meyerbeer). If you go for crazy humor you will enjoy 3e Étage, but you might find it as I did too redundant and limited. In fact, I preferred the Zeummes pieces where the idea is to parody the classical style to the freewheeling surrealistic zaniness of Murez. For the record the eliminated pieces were "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux" by Balanchine, and "Chaconne", music by Vitali, choreographed by Murez. The Forsythe piece, surrounded by Murez and Zeummes, seemed austere in its deconstructed-bodies technique. Brilliant dancing throughout.
For Buenos Aires Herald

Great pianists in BA: Lang Lang, Chamayou, Grynyuk

            The first of four great pianists programmed in the Colón´s Abono del Bicentenario came and took the audience by storm: Lang Lang, the world-famous 30-year-old Chinese. (The others: Evgeny Kissin, Andras Schiff and Arcadi Volodos). Lang Lang was here for a little-noted presentation at the Colón (isolated, not part of a subscription series) when he was very young, playing Tchaikovsky´s First Concerto; he then showed important qualities diminished by unresolved matters of style. Now he is a complete master of his craft and a major figure. The ovation at the end was the most enthusiastic I remember in recent years and  fully deserved.
             It was audacious that The New York Times proclaimed him "the most popular classical musician of the planet", probably based on his playing at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, seen by an enormous number of people. Here Lang Lang meant considerably less than Barenboim or Mehta, but probably this visit will make him a new favorite, for playing of this caliber provokes a phenomenon of identification, helped by an outgoing and pleasant personality, warm and communicative. By the way, he dressed conservatively and apart from some facial gestures and at the very end of the ovation a lot of handshaking and distribution of roses to the public, he was serious and concentrated, with no grandstanding. The only discordant note was given by part of the audience applauding after the serene and big first movement of a Schubert sonata.
            His programme was made up of recognised masterpieces in sharply diverging styles. J.S.Bach´s Partita Nº 1 is the one most often played, with recordings that are a permanent reference such as Lipatti´s. Although the playing was immaculate and beautiful, I have some reservations: the Allemande was surely too fast, the Sarabande had too much "rubato", the Menuet´s repeat wasn´t observed and the tempo was too fast, and the Gigue (this may be a matter of edition) was played detached in the paired notes rather than legato.
            The rest was a continuous wonder. Schubert´s last sonata, Nº 21 in B flat major, D.960, is in itself enormous, with an especially huge first movement marked "Molto moderato". This was magnified by the very rare repeat of the exposition, a moot point for though specified by the author it accentuates the unbalance with the final two movements; however by including it you hear thirty innovative transitional seconds. But what mattered was the introspective concentration both here and in the slow movement, the lovely tone throughout, the perfect, sensitive phrasing, the great dynamic range without ever being harsh. And the fast ones were lilting and charming.
            As to Chopin´s 12 studies Op.25, this is the fourth time they are included by important artists in BA during the last nine months, and it was by far the best (the others: Sergio Tiempo, Valentina Lisitsa and Idil Biret). It is a matter of individual tastes whether some phrasings were too free, and indeed some were, but they never bothered me. What I heard was almost incredible in sheer technical perfection (at that level the mere mechanics are moving) but also in the constant research of meaningful left-hand figurations and in the ability to go from lightness to terrifying potency. 
            Encores: a perfumed Chinese little piece, and the most prodigious Liszt "Campanella" I´ve ever heard; I was left literally breathless.
            Bertrand Chamayou gave a closed concert at the Colón last year; I heard it and was vividly impressed. The 32-year-old Toulousain came back now surrounded by the orchestra of his native city, the Orchestre Nationale du Capitole de Toulouse, under their Principal Conductor Tugan Sokhiev, who comes from Osetia (part of it Georgian and part Russian). The orchestra, one of the best in France, had come in 1990 under Michel Plasson, and it was very positive to have them back, for they obviously like their conductor and he is a major talent. Their playing in Mussorgsky/Rimsky-Korsakov (the iridescent prelude of "Khowanshchina") and Mussorgsky/Ravel ("Pictures at an exhibition") was balanced, colorful and descriptive, led by a conductor with sane expressive ideas. Not quite always, though, for the first encore was wildly fast (Dvorák´s Slavonic Dance op. 46/1). But I liked the others: the Interlude from Leoncavallo´s "I Pagliacci" and Tchaikovsky´s "Trepak" from "The Nutcracker". 
            After the first Mussorgsky, Chamayou did a splendid interpretation of Liszt´s First Concerto, well abetted by the orchestra and in close communion with Sokhiev. His dynamism, accuracy and continuity were always right on the spot. And if the Polish song "My joys" (Chopin/Liszt) was tender, the Tarantella from Liszt´s "Venezia e Napoli" was fabulous in its liquid speed and exactness.  This was a Mozarteum evening, and the programme carried a useful account of their innumerable presentation of great orchestras in BA. I couldn´t hear their first programme, all-French.
            Finally, one of the most original and best chamber music concerts in a long time. It was offered by Festivales  at the Avenida. Original, because it isn´t a full-time Trio, but the sum of three interacting individualities; and because they played together only in the mighty Tchaikovsky Trio. Best, as a result of being very talented artists in their respective instruments. 
            Nicola Benedetti despite her name is a Scottish violinist; Alexei Grynyuk is Ukrainian, a pianist of granitic solidity. They both gave a very fine account of the rarely heard but powerful Richard Strauss Sonata Op. 18. Then Grynyuk partnered German cellist Leonard Elschenbroich in a deep, concentrated interpretation of Brahms´s Second Sonata, Op.99, the one that explores the lowest range of the cello. And the three were gorgeous in the immense Tchaikovsky Trio. This was a very welcome joint local debut.
For Buenos Aires Herald