jueves, julio 25, 2013

The paths of the musical Baroque

            The post-World War II years have seen a monumental increase in the knowledge and diffusion of the musical Baroque. Of course the background for such an explosion had been patiently prepared by researchers and specialist societies in the interwar years, but technological factors gave their great contribution: the long-play was essential in the period 1950-85. The Bach Guild in the USA and later the first integral recording of the sacred cantatas in Telefunken (Harnoncourt and Leonhardt) and the immensely influential I Musici for the Italian repertoire  were milestones. The Telefunken series inaugurated the historicist Bach movement, and later on the same trend started in Italy.

            Young people have mostly heard historicist Baroque; veterans like myself have experienced the whole process. Let us briefly define: the historicist uses period instruments or copies of them, gut strings, no vibrato, flexible rhythm, a variety of accents; timbres matter much more than in the pre-historicist era.

            However, if you take a recording that was a paradigm for decades you find many of the traits that have provoked enthusiasm in music lovers. I mean Vivaldi´s "The Four Seasons" as played by Félix Ayo and I Musici in the Fifties. I happened to see them live back in 1956 (New York) and the recording by the same artists (a part of the series "Il cimento dell´armonia e dell´invenzione") has remained treasurable for me.

            So I persist in my conclusion that it isn´t a matter of either/or: you can hear excellent or poor Vivaldi with modern instruments and ditto with historicist ones. This is by way of introduction for two recent Vivaldi concerts. The first was offered by the Cameristi della Scala (debut) at the Coliseo in the closing session of Italian Summer in Buenos Aires. The other featured "The Four Seasons" and was played by La Barroca del Suquía at the Auditorio de Belgrano for Festivales Musicales.

            The Scala players are only nine, which I find too few, but the seven string players play with full, beautiful sound, exact tuning and attack, and they respond as one.   The harpsichord is a harmony instrument in this reepertoire. They played six well-chosen Vivaldi Concerti of different character. A blot in the hand programme: there were not the essential catalog numbers;  tonalities are hardly enough. The right thing to do is to use the RV numbers (Ryom Verzeichnis), the catalog that has superseded P (Pincherle) and F (Fanna).  There was no interval, which I welcomed.

            A case in point: there are two Concerti in A major for strings; they played RV158; these have no soloist. Then, perhaps the high point of the evening: Concerti Op.10 Nº3, "Il cardellino" ("The linnet"), and Op.10 Nº2, "La notte" (Op. numbers correspond to works edited during Vivaldi´s life). In both flutist Marco Zoni shone with marvellous dexterity, perfect style and beautiful sound. Then, the ample and dramatic Concerto in E minor for violin "Il favorito", RV 277, played with admirable line by Andrea Pecolo (their concertino). The final two Concerti were from Op.3, "L´estro armonico": Nº8 with two violins (Pecolo and Paolo Zordanazzo) amd Nº 11, with the same violinists and cellist Andrea Favalessa (the programme didn´t identify the latter): firm, solid, satisfying renditions.

            I have often written with enthusiasm about La Barroca del Suquía led by violinist Manfredo Kraemer, certainly our foremost historicist ensemble. However, I wasn´t so happy this time: I found their phrasing very willful, even quirky, with some distorted tempi, excessive flexibility and a collective sound that was too close to harshness. Of course along with this there were many brilliant moments of great dynamism and some attractive introspective ones, but it didn´t quite jell. Also, I disagree with the separation of the two first concerti of "The Four Seasons" ("Spring" and "Summer") from the other two ("Fall" and "Winter") by dint of the "Nisi Dominus" RV608 sung by countertenor Martín Oro. Although I prefer one violinist playing all four, Kraemer (who played "Fall") allowed his young colleagues to take on "Spring" (Mauro Asís), "Summer" (Pablo López) and "Winter" (Leandro Liuzzi), and they did very well.

            Before and after there was a rather poor interpretation of Corelli´s famous Concerto Op.6 Nº 8, "for Christmas", and the "operatic" motet "Longe mala, umbrae, terrores", with Oro. I didn´t find the singer in his best form and his body language bothered me, though it was interesting to hear the two vocal pieces as samples of another Vivaldi facet.

            The main interest of a recent concert of the Academia Bach at the Iglesia Metodista Central was the premiere of a wonderful Bach cantata, Nº8, "Liebster Gott, wann werd ich sterben?" ("Dearest God, when will I die?"). Though I dislike the pietist message, the music is again incredibly imaginative , especially the tenor aria with two oboes d´amore and the opening chorus. Rather pale soloists, but very good playing from people such as Pablo Spiller, Rubén Albornoz and Claudio Barile and the habitual string group under Mario Videla

            The concert had started with the best known of the very numerous Flute Concerti by Joachim Quantz, QV 5:174, played with his usual fluency by Barile. And then, outside the Baroque, two gratifying choral pieces by Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901): the Missa Brevis Op.83 (the whole text of the mass in 16 minutes) and the motet "Ex Sion", both very nicely done by Periferia Vocal conducted by Pablo Piccinni.       

For Buenos Aires Herald

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