sábado, octubre 24, 2015

Antonio Formaro, virtuoso pianist and scholar. And the splendid Hermès Quartet plus a Bach cantata


            Antonio Formaro has been since he started his career a "rara avis". A concert pianist´s aim is generally to be successful and have an international trajectory; well, this has been obtained by Formaro in recent years, but doubled with an intense life as professor of musical history, especially of the Romantic period, which will be crowned with a doctoral thesis on Mendelssohn. Also, he has been very active as a chamber player both in piano quartets and piano trios (currently, the Trío Williams).

            Naturally, he has vanquished the purely technical hurdles of piano playing, but only  to find the essence of the music: the myriad details of phrasing that release the kernel of significance of a score. He goes deep into the spirit of the notes and he transmits the style of the composer with the insight given by his vast culture.  That is why I always go to a concert of his with the conviction that he will reveal new aspects of music.

            Two recent concerts again showed that he is a special case. One was called Festival Piano Sinfónico de Buenos Aires, rather too pompous a title for just one performance, but it contains an idea that is valid and hasn´t been seen for decades: a programme dedicated fully to concerted works for piano and orchestra. I remember about thirty-five years ago the concerts in which Earl Wild or Alexis Weissenberg played several concerti in the same evening. They were "tours de force" but they followed the tradition of the Artur Rubinstein of the Thirties and Forties.

            This wasn´t quite so ambitious for although there were four scores only one was a concerto, and the whole thing lasted an hour, not 90 minutes, but it´s the first step of a good idea that in 2016 should be a cycle.  The venue was the Teatro del Globo, an intimate  hall close  to the Coliseo. In such a  space you don´t need a big orchestra; the ad-hoc one numbered 40 players and they were enough. The conductor was the talented Lucía Zicos and the producer was Damián Mahler (son of Ángel), who included  a short piece conducted by himself: "Remembranza", an agreeable melody.

            The programme started with the pet composer of Formaro: Felix Mendelssohn. The première of a 4-minute "Recitativo", MWV/0:1, was  proof of the incredibly precocious talent of the composer, for it was written at eleven-years-old. By the way, MWV is Mendelssohn Werke Verzeichnis (Catalogue of Mendelssohn´s Works), useful for scores without an opus.  But the Rondo brillant Op.29 is a scintillating mature score of great dynamism, which I have long known through a very good interpretation by Peter Katin (there are plenty of recordings). And here Formaro gave us marvels of dexterity and continuity. He will play it, along with the Second Piano Concerto, at Leipzig´s venerable Gewandhaus, Mendelssohn´s "home", late in November, as recognition of Formaro´s specialisation.

            I was rather surprised by the choice of Tchaikovsky´s First Concerto, for this famous standard stresses virtuosity rather than substance, but Formaro wasn´t flashy: meeting all the mechanical demands, he gave sense and reflexion to what is often just a vehicle for display. Here and elsewhere, Zicos and the plausible orchestra accompanied well.

            There were two reasons for going to The Blue Whale a week ago: the visit of the Orquesta Sinfónica Provincial de Bahía Blanca (which I had never heard) and Formaro playing Beethoven´s Third Concerto. The Orchestra was born in 1959 and is a big one, 91-strong on this visit. Its Principal Conductor is the young Federico Víctor Sardella, born in that city and with experience  in Italy and Germany.

            The programme was no great shakes, for the other scores are common repertoire: Ginastera´s Obertura para el Fausto Criollo and Tchaikovsky´s Fifth Symphony. My general impression is: a decent orchestra with some room for improvement (oboes, horns) and a conductor of adequate technical knowledge but little communication. Paradoxically they played better in the difficult Tchaikovsky than in the Beethoven Concerto, where Formaro saved the day with another of his immaculate interpretations, particularly in the subtlety of the slow movement.

            I have an angry complaint: the official policy of the whole Centro Cultural Kirchner is free access to anyone, and that includes the Whale: so bawling babies are accepted and one who wasn´t of the worst  kept babbling meters away from myself in the middle of Beethoven´s more introspective moments. I complained to the parents, the personnel and the Press Office to no avail: they don´t undestand that babies ruin concerts... What an example of silliness and what a way to ruin a concert hall.

            I had a stimulating surprise going to the Quatuor Hermèsn (debut) recital at the Museo de Arte Decorativo. This is a France-based cosmopolitan foursome  young and talented, dispensing as much energy as thought in every interpretation. They are Omer Bouchet, kinetic first violin; Elise Liu, a continually responsive second violin; Jung-Hsin Lou Chang, an admirable violist; and Anthony Kondo, a firm cellist.

            Their programme had admirable balance and quality and they were equally outstanding in the three styles: the perfect classicism of Haydn´s Quartet Op. 76 Nº3, "Emperor"; the synthetic twelve-tone Expressionism of Webern´s Five pieces Op.5; and the warm Romanticism of Schumann´s Quartet Op.41 Nº1. The encore was a quartet adaptation of the Adagio from Bizet´s "L´Arlésienne".

For Buenos Aires Herald

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