sábado, diciembre 27, 2014

Spohr, Martinu, Ferrandini and Gurdjieff: variety is life

            You probably know the first two family names of this article, Spohr and Martinu, but I bet you haven´t in the cases of Ferrandini and Gurdjieff. As for me, after 47 years of reviewing, I have finally heard live music of the latter two. And certainly my chances of hearing scores by the first two have been scarce. Out of the immense morass of concerts offered during recent weeks I chose four, precisely becaused I´m still curious (and hope to die that way: it´s the principal characteristic, or should be, of working as a musical critic).

            Ars Nobilis has existed for many years now, always led by Mabel Mambretti. It was born in 1997 and has  been a persevering labor of love. During the initial seasons the concerts were not free but had low prices and offered carefully chosen programmes. However, in recent seasons the orientation has been different: free concerts and many, as much as 30 or even more. Venues change and quality varies, but some are interesting; quite a few are given outside our city in localities such as San Miguel.

            I was attracted by a concert at the Salón Anasagasti of the Jockey Club, a pleasant place for chamber music. In a way, Ars Nobilis was a part of the large  plan of concerts and lectures imagined by Norberto Padilla as Cultural Director for the Club, often rewarding for  music lovers.

            The programme was very worthwhile: Mendelssohn´s quartets are wrongly neglected, as proved by Nº4, Op.44 Nº2, agreeably done by the Cuarteto Ritornello. Then, what is for me the best piece ever written for wind quintet, Nielsen´s Quintet Op.43, carefully played by the Ensemble Ars Nova plus hornist Álvaro Suárez Vázquez. The première of Martín Cafieri´s Guitar Sonata was the consequence of winning First Prize in the Eighth Alemann competition instituted by Mambretti, who had been  married to composer Eduardo Alemann. The piece was tonal and well wrought, as well as nicely played by Matías Couriel.

            To cap it all, the splendid Nonet by Ludwig Spohr (the first in history), combining woodwinds, horn and strings, a very skillful and melodic composition. The Cuarteto Ritornello, the Ensamble Ars Nova and bass player Santiago Quagliariello put  a lot of concentration and effort and the result was plausible though it left room for betterment.

            I have a soft spot for Bohuslav Martinu´s music, an eclectic, kaleidoscopic composer with a style of his own, to my mind the other great name of Czech Twentieth Century music (of course, his "companion" is Leos Janácek). That wonderful Museum, the Fernández Blanco, gives concerts coordinated by Leila Makarius every week of the season, often innovative. And for a ridiculous price (ten pesos).  As part of the Week of Czech Culture and coordinated by Ana Janku, pianist Orlando Milláa and the Cuarteto Fénix (Laura Rus, flute; David Bortolus, oboe; David Lheritier, clarinet; María Marta Ferreyra, bassoon), plus second bassoonist Julieta Di Fede, offered a fascinating conspectus of this creator´s chamber music, in all cases very well played.

            A nervous  Flute Sonata (1945) with Martinu´s typical dislocated rhythms was followed by two contrapuntal Madrigals (1937) for oboe, clarinet and bassoon. Then, an early, dynamic Scherzo for piano (1924), and finally, a five-movement Sextet for piano and winds (two bassoons!), the fourth being a blues (he wrote many pieces in jazzy styles). It dates from 1929.

            The Usina del Arte is presenting weekly a panoply of events and it has become the single most noteworthy fact of the year: notwithstanding its isolation and doubtful security and accessibility, the quality of its programming has steadily risen and no music lover can discard some visits in a season. An admirable cycle of Baroque music, e.g., in which I missed several worthy dates because of collisions with other things I had to cover. But at least I could hear the wonderful presentation in their Chamber Music Hall (capacity 280, chockful) of the Proyecto Bach led by Jorge Lavista, with famed Argentine soprano María Cristina Kiehr (she has a great specialized Baroque career in Europe).

            Giovanni Ferrandini (1715-93) worked at the Munich court for thirty years and wrote many cantatas as well as ten operas. He was the discovery of this concert, for his cantata "Giunta l´ora fatal" proved dramatic and intense, especially in the recitatives. After the splendid Concerto TWV 51 for flute, violin and strings by Telemann,  played with panache particularly by flutist Gabriel Pérsico, we had a novelty: Bach´s well-known Cantata Nº 82, "Ich habe genug", in an adaptation by Bach himself from the original for baritone to a version for soprano, flute and strings. And it works!  Beautiful interpretations from all concerned. Plus an encore, one of Cleopatra´s arias ("Piangerò") from Handel´s "Giulio Cesare".

            And finally, a rarity at AMIJAI. American pianist Charles Ketcham has long been a crusader for the music collected by the esoteric George Gurdjieff (1866-1949) in different regions, such as Armenia, Greece, Kurdistan, the Caucasus, Persia, Tibet; there is also music of the sayyid, a Muslim group in India, and dervish music from Persia and Bukhara. But it is homogenized by the piano arrangements of Thomas de Hartmann (1866-1949) and it often sounds too Occidental, apart from losing the original timbres of endemic instruments. Ketcham played very professionally and with deep conviction, but it didn´t make much of an impact on me.

For Buenos Aires Herald 

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