lunes, julio 07, 2014

Youth orchestras, chamber zarzuela and avantgarde flute

            This article will be a true potpourri mixing youth orchestras with an offbeat chamber recital dedicated to zarzuela and a concert premièring an important work by Luigi Nono.

            One of the good things of recent decades has been the proliferation of youth orchestras. Here in B.A. there´s little room at the top, for those that are permanent members of our three most  important orchestras tend to remain several decades in their posts, but there are ad-hoc organisms for private opera and other endeavors.  Young blood needs youth orchestras to acquire experience and confidence .

            The Orquesta Estudiantil de Buenos Aires founded and conducted by Guillermo Zalcman existed for almost twenty years as a labor of love, and only in these last two years has had the support of the City Education Ministry under a programme called Música para la Equidad, currently led by Eduardo Ihidoype. Zalcman remains faithful to his trajectory: no other conductor has been responsible for so many premières, although mostly tonal works of the period 1870-1930.

            The orchestra was born at the School Mariano Acosta and Zalcman has had to make do with what was available in instruments and talent; even if its operational base has expanded, we still read "copistry and arrangements" and find that six saxophones are part of the organism when certainly they shouldn´t be, they are not normal members of a symphony orchestra. So the versions we hear aren´t "pure" and that´s certainly a hindrance. There are also "keyboards" instead of "piano and celesta".

            But their love of music is communicative and I go sometimes to their concerts, attracted by interesting programming. On this occasion, at the Facultad de Derecho UBA, the only score already known but scarcely played was José Martí Llorca´s Second Symphony,  intricately wrought. The composer was Spanish but lived here. The Czech Zdenek Fibich is an attractive Late Romantic and I found his symphonic poem "Toman and the wood nymph" quite imaginative. It was the first of three premières; the others: a charming short Serenade by the Russian Vasily Kalinninkov, and the brilliant ballet "Old King Cole" (1923) by that lovable British creator Ralph Vaughan Williams, full of contrasts and orchestral "trouvailles".

            The Estudiantil has a  rare feature: it gives encores, something that only visiting orchestras do. With enthusiasm they offered dynamic dances by Glière ("The Red Poppy") and Khachaturian ("Gayaneh").

            The Orquesta Académica del Instituto Superior de Arte del Teatro Colón gives periodic concerts for free on some Thursday afternoons. It is a chamber orchestra of good quality, and I went to their short concert led by Ricardo Sciammarella (known here as a cellist) because it included the complete Beethoven incidental music to Goethe´s "Egmont" (it was preceded by the "Coriolan" Overture). The Interludes and the two songs by Klärchen are rewarding and were nicely done (the soprano was the clear-voiced Jaquelina Livieri). But the Melodrama (the spoken words of Egmont) needed the mellow though dramatic tones that Ángel Mattiello produced in 1955, not the violent barking of Pol González. The conducting and playing were correct.

            I was pleasantly surprised with the Orquesta Académica de la Universidad Nacional de Lanús under Daniel Bozzani at the Facultad de Derecho UBA. Medium-sized (65-strong), it proved large enough to do justice to Late Romantic composers and played with enthusiasm and discipline under Bozzani, formed at the Catholic University here and then in Germany and Switzerland. Some weakness in the horns was counterbalanced by a surprisingly good cello sector.

            I was lured to attend because to my knowledge they did the Sibelius Third Symphony only for the second time in our city; the first was was by the B.A. Phil under Calderón in 1973 ( I programmed it). And it is a beautiful and powerful 32-minute score that doesn´t merit such neglect (the same goes for Nos. 4 and 6). Before it we heard Mendelssohn´s "The Hebrides" and Bruch´s First Violin Concerto, with an impressive Rafael Gintoli as soloist; the veteran artist remains a redoubtable master.

            The Ensamble de Madrid (debut) is a piano sextet that exists since 1985 and their repertoire is certainly offbeat: arrangements of zarzuelas. The players are astonishingly good and I´m rather disconcerted that apparently most of their time is taken up by this unusual task. But I like zarzuela´s tunes and the arrangements, though they weren´t imaginative, were apposite to the instruments and very agreeable. Most were by José Francisco Pacheco.

            In segments of about eight minutes we heard fragments from "Pan y toros" (Francisco Asenjo Barbieri), "El año pasado por agua" (Chueca and Valverde), "La Torre del Oro" (Jiménez), "La Chulapona" (Moreno Torroba), "La Gran Vía" (Chueca and Valverde) and "La Marchenera" (Moreno Torroba"). Encores: "De Madrid a París" (Chueca), "Luisa Fernanda" (Moreno Torroba) and Vives ("Juegos malabares"). The venue was AMIJAI.

            The Usina del Arte´s chamber hall presented the South-American première of Luigi Nono´s "Das atmende Klarsein" ("The breathing clarity" is a rough translation). During 48 minutes a low flute with experimental figurations alternates with a choir singing Rilke and old Greek and German hymns; the result is original and related with "Prometheus", premièred last year at the Colón. Sergio Catalán (flute) and the Coro de Cámara Zahir (Diego Boero) gave a faithful account of this presentation of the Compañía Oblicua. In the First Part the Choir sang pieces by Ola Gjeilo, Gyorgy Ligeti and Eric Whitacre.

For Buenos Aires Herald

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