martes, septiembre 16, 2014

Three quality piano recitals plus a symphonic concert

            If recent piano recitals in our city are reliable signs of a general situation, I would say that the world is crawling with talented pianists capable of giving quality recitals. The main aspects common to all three artists I am going to review are first-rate technique coupled with a deep knowledge of styles. The first two started the Chopiniana series coordinated by Martha Noguera at the Palacio Paz, back at that splendid Oval Room, alas with rather too resonant acoustics.

            I was surprised by the announcement of the visit of 82-year-old Joaquín Achúcarro, and then delighted with the results, for at that age there can be a considerable falling off in the mechanics of playing. Fortunately it wasn´t so, apart from small smudges now and then. If I´m right, this is his fourth visit; the last time he played Falla with the Orquesta Nacional de España under Frühbeck de Burgos for the Mozarteum in 1990.

            He explained to the public the qualities of the Variations on a theme by Schumann written as a homage by Brahms, and played them with real empathy and beauty. Then, a Chopin Nocturne (Nº 5) lovingly played with fine tone, two Waltzes (pity, there were mistakes in Nº 10, but the posthumous Nº 14 went swimmingly) and a strong performance of the famous "Heroic Polonaise".

            Not surprisingly, he was in his element playing Granados and Albéniz. In fact, now that the matchless Alicia de Larrocha is no longer with us, Achúcarro must be one of the best specialists in this classy Spanish repertoire. He gave us relevant information about "El amor y la muerte", longest number of "Goyescas" (Granados), and played it with poetry and insight. Then, two of the numbers of "Iberia", that intricate and important suite by Albéniz: the fast and rhythmical "El puerto" and the evocative "El Albaicín" (a Granada borough). Finally, by the same composer, the brilliant "Navarra",  showing off Achúcarro´s stamina and firmness.

            Three admirable encores: a refined "Clair de lune" (Debussy), Chopin´s Prelude Nº 16, and a perfect "Nocturne for the left hand", one of the most attractive Scriabin pieces.

            Michael McHale was born in Belfast and I will make no political distinction: he is pure Irish. He has been here before (twice, I believe), and I liked him, but this time I was much more impressed. His touch can be ethereal, as in Debussy, or extremely forceful, as in Mussorgsky´s "Pictures at an exhibition", or flighty as in the two fast Op.90 Schubert Impromptus, and his mechanism is practically without blemish even in the hardest pieces.

            He spoke to the audience in decent Spanish, thanking the presence of the Ambassador (Irish, I presume) and making reference to his arrangements (agreeable though conventional) of old Irish songs: he played two at the end of the First Part and another two as encores, but in "Danny Boy" he suddenly "went" to the USA with a wild jazz improvisation!

            He played the four pieces of the mentioned Op.90, and I cavil at his "détaché" approach to the melody of the First; my edition has it "legato", not "staccato" as he did it.  But I liked his well-contrasted Schubert, and I truly enjoyed his two pieces from Debussy´s "Estampes", "Soirée in Granada" and "Gardens under the rain", fluent and mercurial; I was sorry that he didn´t include the first, "Pagodas". As to his Mussorgsky, it was dramatic and intense, and I didn´t miss the orchestra in "The Great Gate of Kiev" as I often do, so big (but unforced) was his tone.

            A few years ago I heard Emilio Peroni play Brahms with the National Symphony and I had then the impression of a solid pianist. This Argentine artist lives in Germany, where he has worked in Rostock (North of Berlin) for many years. Still young, he came back for a really satisfying Sunday morning recital at the Usina del Arte.

            For one thing, he dominates the art of programming: he offered unhackneyed and worthwhile pieces in widely diverging styles, as used to do Ralph Votapek. First, those wonderful late "Variations in F minor" by Joseph Haydn, played with crystalline clarity. Then, he fulfilled one of my dreams: to finally hear live some of Dvorák´s piano music (his complete production fits seven vinyl records that I treasure), so pleasant and unheard: he played four of the six pieces of Op.52. A tough challenge afterwards: three of the dazzling "Moments musicaux" by Rachmaninov, which were attacked with power and control. Then, a well-contrasted and colorful rendition of the Ravelian "Valses nobles et sentimentales". He ended the programme with Chopin, a fast Scherzo Nº 3, where I was surprised that he made a small cut in the coda; and the encore was also Chopin, the airy Prelude Nº3.  

            The National Symphony offered an interesting night at the Auditorio de Belgrano conducted by Carlos Vieu. Although there were a few flagrant mistakes (trumpet, horn) and some bad intonation, Vieu is a convincing and intense interpreter, who encompassed the various moods of Shostakovich´s admirable Sixth Symphony. In the First Part we heard a nice "El tarco en flor" by Gianneo, and a good rendition of Schumann´s Piano Concerto with the orchestra´s pianist Marcelo Balat, a young and fresh talent who did very well except for one passage where memory failed him, but the end result was positive.

For Buenos Aires Herald 

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