martes, octubre 07, 2014

A plethora of pianists and some new music


            In recent weeks a true plethora of pianists have been playing in BA. This article will cover some of them. There was a time (about 15-20 years ago) when piano recitals had diminished strongly, but there seems to be a vogue for them in recent years, and I certainly welcome this for it is the best recital instrument.

            The "Festival Internacional Encuentros 2014" is the 46th imagined by Alicia Terzian, still tireless at 80. She has programmed hundreds of premières of the 20th and 21st centuries, many of them worthwhile. This is a private effort organized by the Fundación Encuentros Internacionales de Música Contemporánea. It doesn´t have the vast budgets of the November contemporary festival of the Teatro San Martín, but it has existed for far longer and with  less means has managed to offer interesting programmes.

            This year they are offering their concerts at a satisfactory venue: the Auditorio Augusto Sebastiani of the Fundación Beethoven, Santa Fe 1452. I am writing today about three pianists who played in two recitals, and I haven´t been able to attend the other concerts of the cycle, which has included the Conjunto Ritmus, the Grupo Encuentros that she leads and a final vocal recital by Marta Blanco doing a fascinating Homage on the Centenary of World War I.

            She has also included films on musical subjects: Keith Jarrett, Philip Glass, the Ondes Martenot, Viktor Ullmann (the author of "The Emperor of Atlantis"). There was also a seminar on choral direction given by the Welsh specialist Gwyn Williams and another on piano playing offered by the pianists I´m reviewing.Terzian always presents her concerts, and I often disagree with her prickly and contentious sayings, but that doesn´t diminish my admiration for her substantial contribution to our musical life.

            Terzian has traveled intensely over the years and always has had a particular relationship with Switzerland. All three pianists hold posts at the Geneva Conservatory. The Armenian Eva Aroutounian is Directress of it. Her programme was varied and valuable, played with admirable professionalism and keen insight.

            Curiously, she did something similar to what happened in the recital this year of the Keller Quartet: an alternation of pieces by the Octogenarian Hungarian György Kurtág with  short Bach Preludes (the Keller chose "The Art of Fugue"). The epigrammatic scores by Kurtág are called "Játékok" ("Games", written over a very long time, 1973-2010) and seemed to me very uneven in quality; sometimes they jelled with Bach but often they didn´t.

            Karlheinz Stockhausen wrote very innovative "Klavierstücke" ("Pieces for piano") from 1952 to 1984; Nº IX explores the intensity of chords and is akin to minimalism. More to my taste are six short pieces by Luciano Berio, especially those that attempt a pianistic evocation of the four elements. Two by Peter Eötvös are an obvious homage to Berio using the same sort of idea. This brilliant recital finished with the astonishing First Sonata by Prokofiev, written at 16 and already unmistakeable in its style.

            The other recital had two parts; the first played by Philippe Chanon, Assistant Director of the Geneva Conservatory; the second by the Argentine Adrián Kreda, Dean of the Piano Department in the same institution. Both are very good pianists, always fully in command. Chanon also did a combination of Baroque and contemporary, playing attractive and imaginative Preludes by Maurice Ohana intercalated with two splendid pieces by Jean-Philippe Rameau, "Les Sauvages" and "La Dauphine". Then, the three masterpieces of Debussy called "Estampes", played with virtuoso panache. And finally, the brief and scintillating "Île de feu" by Messiaen.

             Kreda gave a charming account of the beautiful Julián Aguirre pieces called "Cinco tristes", the First Book  of the "Aires nacionales argentinos" (1898, not 1888 as stated wrongly in the programme).  Then, an atypical dreamy, long and minimalist John Cage ("In a Landscape", 1948), prior to the horrors he would later inflict on hearers. Finally, one of Ginastera´s most characteristic, propulsive and Bartokian scores, the First Sonata, played with astonishing strength and accuracy.  

            Chopiniana is the only cycle of piano music; it was created some years ago by Martha Noguera and although Chopin features especially, invited pianists can always play other composers. Her own recital, offered like the others at the Palacio Paz, was very long and enormously difficult; a true challenge for a petite, 70-year old pianist. I think she was unwise to pile up so much extreme virtuosity, and although she is astonishingly vigorous and her technique has always been very important, she did have some dicey moments, especially in the final piece, that fantastic "Mephisto Waltz", the best of Liszt but terrible to play.

            She started with an early Mozart Sonata, Nº 3 K.281, very cleanly played. Then followed the great challenge of Beethoven´s mighty "Waldstein" Sonata (Nº 21), where there were some garbled moments but also beathtaking feats (the octave glissandi at the end).           

            The Second Part started with some beautiful pieces by the Slovak Eugen Suchon, followed by the première of the Argentine Gustavo Fedel´s Prelude Nº 3 (the author was present), pleasant enough; and three pieces from a group called "Trivialities" by Maraj Kogoj, well-written pieces by a composer new to me. All seemed very well-played.

            Believe it or not, followed Chopin´s 24 Preludes Op.28 and the aforementioned Liszt. Exhausting for any player, Noguera showed the firmness of her preparation in the kaleidoscopic pieces of the Polish composer.

For Buenos Aires Herald

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