We are in the final weeks of the season and some institutions are ending theirs. Festivales Musicales finished its activity (although the Bach Academy, its "daughter", still has one concert to go) with a splendid Bach-Vivaldi concert at the Colón. It had only one fault: it was too short. At the start of the Second Part, given over to the most famous of Vivaldi´s Glorias, it would have been nice nd useful to add a violin concerto from this composer.
Mario Videla was at his best as conductor and had at his command a picked orchestra of moderate historicism. We had a fluent and beautifully played First Suite by Johann Sebastian, a model of style and execution. Then, the most brilliant of Bach´s Cantatas for solo voice, Nº 51, "Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen" ("Be joyful unto God in all places"), where both the soprano and the solo trumpet have difficult florid music. Soledad de la Rosa´s crystal-clear voice and easy highs are just the ticket for this music. And Fernando Ciancio, except for a tiny accident at the end of the initial Aria, played with beautiful tone and real agility.
The Gloria, RV 589, doesn´t need such a huge choir as the 101 voices of the Orfeón de Buenos Aires (Néstor Andrenacci and Pablo Piccinni) and I wonder why, in a Baroque piece, especially when they call themselves a "project choir", in other words, a flexible organism that adapts to different necessities. But they sounded very well, powerful, in tune and in style. The Ensemble Academia Bach was again outstanding (lovely work from oboist Andrés Spiller), De la Rosa and countertenor Martín Oro sang with quality (although their timbres don´t blend ideally), and Videla was sensitive and exact.
There were rumors during the year that the hard economic situation of the country was affecting sponsorship and that next year´s Festivales season was imperiled. But they decided to form a Circle of friends, and their support has saved them. However, there are almost no foreigners and the programming (announced as has become a good practice in the last concert of the season) is very conservative, when Festivales was in its early years quite adventurous. Still, I can only feel glad that this institution and its "daughter" will be us in 2013.
Nuova Harmonia ended its season with a concert by the Camerata Ireland featuring its longtime leader, pianist/conductor Barry Douglas (they came to us in 2000). As pianist Douglas has been a frequent and always welcome visitor. In his early maturity he showed himself once again impeccably stylish and accomplished. He offered admirable performances of two standards, Mozart´s Concerto Nº 19 and Beethoven´s Nº 2, plus a Nocturne and Aria for piano and orchestra by John Field, the Irish composer who invented the Nocturne and influenced Chopin. As he is very pleasant, I would have preferred to hear one of his seven concerti instead of the Mozart, for they are not known here and should be.
The other two pieces were the witty Overture "La Scala di Seta" by Rossini, and some charming "Druid dances" by Edward Bunting (1773-1843), an important compiler of Irish folklore. Surely Bunting´s and Field´s pieces were premieres. I´m afraid I am much less impressed by the Camerata than by Douglas; there were mistakes in the woodwinds (especially the oboe at the start of Rossini), horns were woolly and the strings had more than a touch of acid. They are, yes, disciplined and correct, but on this showing they are second-line. The President of Ireland, visiting our country, came to the concert with his retinue.
Nuova Harmonia´s programme for 2013 was announced and showed they do have yet some strong sponsors, with heavy accent on symphonic and chamber orchestras. I am very glad that this is so, for back in 2002 they almost died and were rescued by the Italian Government; now Italy is hardly up to the job, so it means that they have been skillful in obtaining sponsors on their own.
When the Buenos Aires Philharmonic´s season was announced early this year I was happy to find that Jorma Panula, the veteran Finnish conductor, would make his belated debut and conduct Sibelius and Nielsen; but I was also surprised that he would be burdened with no less than four Argentine scores and that he would have two Phil first desks playing concerti. As it happened, he was replaced (no explanation at all) by two of our best young conductors, who acquitted themselves quite well, but without the benefit of specialised experience in the important Nordic repertoire, so little-known and -appreciated here. Maybe Panula thought they asked too much from him.
I have space for only the first of the two, conducted by Alejo Pérez and having as main work the marvelous Fifth Symphony by Sibelius. Although not quite as convincing as other instances either from Pérez or the Phil (some passages weren´t distinct enough, or didn´t have all the impact they need) it still was great to hear this music live. A well-written Neoclassic Concertino for clarinet (premiere) by Fermina Casanova was followed by Piazzolla´s "Contemplación y danza", both superlatively played by Fernando Rey. Richard Strauss´ very Romantic First Concerto for horn was executed by Fernando Chiappero with some accidents but fine timbre. At the start, the 1913 "Poema de las campanas" by Alberto Williams was an interesting choice.
For Buenos Aires Herald