miércoles, noviembre 12, 2014

A varied cocktail of musical textures


                 The Buenos Aires Philharmonic received the visit of Chilean conductor Maximiano Valdés, appreciated from other Colón performances and currently Principal Conductor of the Puerto Rico 

Symphony and Artistic Director of the Casals Festival in the same island.

At the last moment it was realized that the programme, originally having two scores, was too short, and a welcome novelty was added : Jan Sibelius´ second tone poem.  In fact, this very pleasant and melodious "Spring Song" (1894) had its origin in a previous "Improvisation" and was created  close to one of his masterpieces, the "Four Legends" (in fact four tone-poems) that include the famous "Swan of Tuonela". But it was revised in 1902, eliminating a Spanish-tinged passage, and surely that was the version we heard.

Esteban Benzecry, born 1970, is having a successful European career, where his style is liked. He has perfected a rich orchestration, colorfully evoking sounds of American ethnic people with abundant endemic percussion. His Violin Concerto dates from 2006-8, was premièred in 2009   (Paris) and in 2010 at San Juan; now Xavier Inchausti has presented the score in our city and it is worth knowing. As was to be expected, the violinist played with the amazing technique and command for which he is famous, and was apparently very well accompanied.

There are three Evocations. According to the author, the first movement, "Evocation of a dream", mixes Andalusian "cante jondo" with Sephardic reminiscences and invented bird songs. The second evokes a tango atmosphere, and the third, "Evocation of a lost world", takes such elements as the baguala, the carnavalito and the malambo. Formally it resorts to the passacaglia and the toccata.

Shostakovich´s Fifth Symphony is the most often played of his fifteen and with good reason, for it is masterly and very expressive. Premièred  at Leningrad in December 1937 with huge success, the author needed that triumph after being condemned by Stalin for his opera "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk".

Rostropovich opened  a controversy when he didn´t accept the usual fast tempo for the final pages and instead rammed them home with tremendous slow power, as he did in Buenos Aires. Thus instead of victory we had tragic drama. I am glad to say that the lucid version of Valdés accepted that point of view and with an orchestra on its toes we had a vivid and moving experience throughout.

 Two sessions of the Mozarteum´s Midday Concerts at the Gran Rex gave much satisfaction. Usually they last about 50 minutes, but the recital by Ophélie Gaillard (cello, debut) and Anaïs Crestin (piano) lasted about 70! And I certainly didn´t complain for the artists were first-rate and the programme was beautiful.

 Two exquisite French composers alternated with characterful Slavic creators. The "sui generis" Debussy Sonata remains an offbeat, quirky marvel. Four short Fauré pieces were successively a feast of  melancholy, charm, uncloying sweetness and mercurial "moto perpetuo": "Élégie", "Sicilienne", "Romance" and "Papillon".

 The unmistakable language of Janácek (aching melody and contrasting rhythms) is fully present in the three-movement "Pohádka", "A tale: the story of Zar Berendyey". And finally, the pithy and concentrated Shostakoch Sonata Op.40.

 Gaillard is a real find: her fluid technique is matched by a ready sensitiveness and fetching presence. And Crestin (a young French woman living in BA) played accurately and in style; I would only object a certain lack of weight in passages that need it.

The Colón´s Academic Orchestra of the High Institute of Art closed the 55th (!) season of the Midday Concerts. Lucas Macías Navarro is the superb first oboe of the Concertgebouw Orchestra; he has started conducting recently. He will be the soloist in the final concert of the B.A.Philharmonic playing Richard Strauss´ Oboe Concerto.

As oboist and coordinator rather than conductor, he played marvelously Alessandro Marcello´s Concerto, maybe the best Baroque piece for the instrument, adding numerous ornaments with consumate taste and 

Schubert´s Fourth Symphony was called "Tragic" by the composer and it is indeed the most urgent and dramatic of his first six, although it was written when he was only 19. Here it was evident that the conductor is still rather green, though certainly musical. Although he obtained good ensemble from the 47 players, his phrasing needed more color and intensity, and the first movement´s main section was just an Allegro, without the necessary "vivace". But it was nice to observe the concentration and enthusiasm of the young executants; they are the breeding ground for the main orchestras and already have a very decent professionalism.

It had rained heavily and the subways were flooded, so the audience was sparse in the stalls; but in the upper floors 800 kids applauded and behaved, and that is surely a positive fact.

 Mario Videla is our best Bachian; playing the splendid organ of the Church St John the Baptist he gave lucid and admirable readings of three Buxtehude pieces (a Chaconne, a Choral fantasy and a Prelude and fugue) and of two towering J.S.Bach scores separated by the four-movement Pastorale. The Partita on the chorale "Sei gegrüsset Jesu gütig" is a theme with eleven variations; the final score was the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major.

This concert for Festivales Musicales was greatly enhanced by the very good video of Videla´s playing; it adds the visual side to the traditional loneliness of organists and facilitates the understanding of the music.


For Buenos Aires Herald 

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