domingo, mayo 11, 2014

The Big Three launch their seasons

             Late April is the usual launching time for the seasons of the Big Three, and so it was again this year. The Mozarteum Argentino, with its two series at the Colón, presented the Munich Chamber Orchestra with trumpet soloist Hakan Hardenberger;  the brilliant duo made up of Boris Belkin (violin) and Michele Campanella (piano), began the Nuova Harmonia activity at the Coliseo; and the choir Musica Quantica made its presentation for Festivales Musicales at the Auditorio de Belgrano.

            The Munich Chamber Orchestra was here three years ago for the Mozarteum. Then and now, their assertive concertino Daniel Giglberger practically officiates as "conductor" with body language from his post. In fact  they are not a true chamber orchestra, which should include winds and be able to play the Haydn and Mozart symphonies, but a string ensemble, though larger than the Baroque ones. For a total of 21 we heard eleven violins, four violas, four cellos and one bass, plus one piano used in a modern work (the same artist also played the harpsichord in a Baroque piece).

            Hardenberger was brought by the Mozarteum 21 years ago and his comeback was very welcome, for the Scandinavian is certainly one of the best  trumpeters in the world and I found him in full form. He intervened in the second and third scores of the First Part and chose two opposing styles: the Baroque represented by Georg Philipp Telemann´s splendid Concerto in D, TWV 51:D7; and modernism by André Jolivet´s Concertino for trumpet, piano and strings, an eclectic piece of much imagination. His playing was admirably clean, with  beauty of sound, precise articulation and sensitive phrasing; he was well abetted by the Orchestra and pianist Jean-Pierre Collot.

            The ensemble by itself gave us the one-movement Symphony Nº 10 for strings by Felix Mendelssohn, written with astonishing precocity at 14 (1823) in a predominantly classical style with some Romantic inklings.

            Interestingly, they started and ended with Twentieth-century Hungarian composers: Sándor Veress (1907-92) was a disciple of Béla Bartók, as his "Four dances of Transylvania" prove; they are light, well-wrought and pleasant. As to Bartók´s Divertimento, it may be the best string piece of his time, with a density of thought and composing mastery that goes beyond the genre. The encore is probably the one that should win the Guinness record of performances: the third movement of Mozart´s Divertimento K.136.

            The group is very professional and has a high degree of accuracy. The interpretations are orthodox, though I miss at times some electricity.  Munich is a very musical city and they are good ambassadors.

            Both Belkin and Campanella have had ample and important careers; it was predictable that their recital would give us two hours of musical pleasure. They played a lovely programme of traditional features: Mozart´s Sonata Nº 26, K.378, one of his best; that epitome of singability, Schubert´s "Duo" Sonata Op.162, D.574; and the wonderful Franck Sonata, with its combination of cyclic construction, deep Late Romantic feeling and inventive counterpoint. The encores were equally beautiful: Schubert´s final movement from his Sonatina Op. 37/3, "Allegro moderato"; and Beethoven´s "moto perpetuo" third movement of Sonata Nº 8.  In other words, a whole programme of sonatas without the violin display pieces; both partners were absolute equals.

             These players have a mature conception of the works, based on full-range techniques and knowledge of styles. It is always comforting to hear this sort of music-making. My reservations are minimal: Belkin´s timbre not quite settled in Mozart, a few circumstantial slips from Campanella. But this is nitpicking for it was a first-rate night.

            Since last year Festivales Musicales is barely hanging on to be still considered as one of the Big Three, for sponsorship has dwindled and with it the money to bring over foreign artists. Their formula has changed: they used to be adventurous, now it´s famous repertoire mostly by selected Argentine artists. I do hope the situation will eventually bring us back to their former ways.

            Musica Quantica is a very good chamber choir molded by Camilo Santostefano into a tight, disciplined unit, able to give us very refined shades of vocal color. Their programme for the First Part included some pieces I had heard from them last year in the Midday Concerts at the Gran Rex, but it was interesting to meet them again at the Auditorio de Belgrano.

            They started with Johann Sebastian Bach´s  double-choir motet "Komm, Jesu, komm", with Manuel Adduci (viola da gamba) and Leonardo Petroni (organ). Two Romantic motets followed: Mendelssohn´s "Warum toben die Heiden" and Josef Rheinberger´s "Anima nostra". Then came what for me was the zenith of the evening: Britten´s complex tripartite "Hymn to Saint Cecilia" on elaborate poems by W.H.Auden.

            Two contemporaries completed the First Part: the fascinating "Leonardo dreams of his flying machine" by Eric Whitacre and the repetitive "De profundis" by the Filipino John Pamintuan.

            Dare I say it, I am no fan of the "Misa criolla" by Ariel Ramírez, to my mind overpraised and oversung. This group gave it a very Northwestern view, which I think is suited; two baritones and a tenor were the soloists, but one of the former had the larger share and sang very "jujeño". Several singers accompanied with charango, guitar, winds and percussion.

            Encores: Piazzolla´s "Fuga y misterio", and "El guayaboso" by the Cuban López Gavilán. Musica Quantica is certainly one of our best choirs nowadays.

For Buenos Aires Herald

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