jueves, agosto 06, 2015

Orchestras and choirs, two magnificent textures

            The worlds of orchestras and choirs sometimes can be complementary, but in both cases they are textures that stand on their own as completely satisfying: one purely instrumental, the other  vocal. The late Eighteenth Century gave us the symphony orchestra, made up of several categories: strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion. The Nineteenth enriched them with some variants. Up to about 1910 the Postromantic orchestra grew and grew. After WWI, all sorts of percussion were added. 

            Choirs have a much longer history and in fact the Renaissance was its richest period. But during Romanticism part-songs were extremely popular. Although Baroque, Classicist and Romantic oratorios are a mix of vocal and instrumental, a lot of music remained purely vocal. And the same thing happened in the XXth Century and nowadays.

            The seventh subscription concert of the B.A.Phil was  led, as so many others, by Enrique Arturo Diemecke, this time with the debut of Russian pianist Alexandre Moutouzkine in a substantial programme made up of two valid scores rarely performed: Alexander Scriabin´s only Piano Concerto, and Anton Bruckner´s Sixth Symphony. Moutouzkine replaced the formerly announced Alexander Markovich (whenever there are changes the Colón gives no explanation...).

            Although Scriabin´s youthful Concerto, written at 26, has some influence of Chopin, it remains a work of much personality, with rich harmony, lovely melodies and required virtuosity. We are yet far from the originality and strangeness of the late piano Sonatas or of the Poem of Fire (Prometheus) but this is rewarding music. The pianist was a find: intense, powerful and firmly in command. By the way, why are his name and surname written the French way? It should be Alexander Mutuzkin. The orchestra accompanied well.  And the pianist gave us a gratifying encore splendidly done: the Prelude from the Bach Violin Partita Nº 3 cunningly arranged by Rachmaninov.

            Bruckner´s Symphony Nº 5 is the less extensive of the last five but it still lasts 53 minutes. Less inspired than the other late ones,  it nevertheless is an impressive monument  unmistakably brucknerian in its style. Diemecke again showed his superb professionalism and comprehension of these ample conceptions, and the orchestra responded with great solidity.

            Unfortunately we have no tradition of light symphonic concerts; there´s plenty of good stuff that deserves to be played, and the ideal time for it is in late Summer and early Autumn, before the main season. Meanwhile, we´ll have to settle for the pleasant B.A.Phil concert of waltzes and polkas by Johann Strauss II and his father´s "Radetzky March" given at the Usina del Arte.    

            The conductor was Fabrizio Danei, recently named Interim Assistant Musical Director of the Phil, after a short appearance as such of Darío Domínguez Xodo. Danei replaces Carlos Bertazza, whose unexpected and shocking suicide happened last year. Born at General Roca, Río Negro, Danei studied conducting at the B.A. Catholic University (UCA). He has worked with such distinguished conductors as Russo and Calderón, and completed his preparation with courses  in London.

            On the basis of this specific repertoire I found Danei competent, though without that special cadence we find in those famous Vienna Philharmonic New Year Concerts, especially those led by Willi Boskovsky. Of course, the Viennese players have that music in their bones, the Phil doesn´t. But the results were pleasant although the pieces were  hackneyed (the aforementioned concerts  bring novelties along with the old standards).

            For the record, they played these waltzes: "Vienna Blood",  "Voices of Spring", "Roses from the South" and of course "Blue Danube". These polkas: "Tritsch-Tratsch", "Thunder and lightning", and as sole surprise, the "New Pizzicato" instead of the habitual "Pizzicato" (wrongly identified in the hand programme). And the "Radetzky March".

            The Coro Universitario de Mendoza has long been one of the very best provincial choirs, having as special distinction that it has kept its high level through many decades. To be exact, half a century since its foundation by Felipe Vallesi; his daughter, Silvana Vallesi, leads it since 1997. Forty-two highly trained voices respond with admirable discipline to the intelligent indications of the directress. Their Sunday morning free concert at the Colón was a high point of that cycle.

            The repertoire was varied, difficult and innovative. Ginastera´s Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah are certainly among the best pieces written in Argentina. I found the Clytus Gottwald adaptation of Mahler´s Lied "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" quite unnecessary; the original is of profound metaphysical import, the arrangement diminishes it. On the other hand, the long, intense "Das Alte Lied" by Knut Nystedt, with piano accompaniment (the excellent Silvia Dabul), was a revelation.

            I had never heard pieces by Giedrus Svilainis: "O quam tristis" has strong contrasts, with passages spoken rhythmically. Two beautiful tonal Nocturnes by Morten Lauridsen followed, with pianist Franco Páez. Then, a sensitive setting of a Shakespeare text by Ward Swingle: "It was a lover and his lass", with contralto and baritone soloists. I wasn´t impressed by a première by Oscar Escalada ("Gloria para un tiempo de paz") but I liked "El hacedor y la niña" by Elifio Rosáenz (women´s choir).

            The "Requiem Osun" by Calixto Álvarez had resort to frankly popular voicing; we heard the "Confutatis" and the "Lacrymosa". The "Magnificat" and "Gloria" by Alberto Grau had  snapping, clapping and lateral movements; there were four soloists. The encore was an attractive Piazzolla score, the Cantata Buenos Aires (I think), with piano and bandoneon.

For Buenos Aires Herald

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