Few things are more revealing of intellectual maturity than imaginative, constructive programming: one that instructs but also warms the heart. Two shining examples happened on the same Sunday: at the Colón in the morning, the sterling Estudio Coral de Buenos Aires gave one of its inimitable concerts concocted by that incredibly talented man, Carlos López Puccio; and in the afternoon, a programme baptized "Le voci sottovetro" combined Renaissance and Twentieth-Century Music in an ideal way.
The Estudio Coral presented a nonpareil combination of works by great composers of the preceding century. With the exception of the admirable "Scenes of Matra", by Zoltan Kodály, relatively well-known, all the rest was either rarely done or a première, and all was interesting and worthwhile.
The Schönberg piece was surprising for it is diaphanously tonal but was written in 1929, at a time when he had invented the twelve-tone system and was considered a revolutionary; the third of a set of Folksong Pieces, "Schein uns, du liebe Sonne" ("Shine for us, dear Sun") is lovingly harmonious. Then, two fragments from Darius Milhaud´s "Cantique du Rhône", 1936, full of Mediterranean joy, on words by Claudel.
Followed an expressive piece by Aaron Copland, "Lark", 1938, with the manly solo voice of Martín Caltabiano. One of the last choral pieces by György Ligeti was the "Hungarian Etudes", 1983, written for 16-part voices (!); we heard the complicated but fascinating Nº 2, "A line of shadow on the prairie".
The première of Leos Janácek´s Three Songs for mixed choir gave us young music, folk-inspired and far from the innovations of his later production, but very beautiful. Then came innovation indeed: Charles Ives, the American that was the greatest pioneer of modern music, gives us in "General William Booth enters into Heaven" (1914, première) an astonishing mixture of atonal piano (Diego Ruiz), unconventional solo singing (bass-baritone Pol González) and tonal hymning (the chorus).
As López Puccio did last year, he now presented a Richard Strauss première: "Die Göttin im Putzimmer" ("The Goddess at her boudoir"), 1935, for eight voices, a humorous and intricate takeoff on coquettish women on a text by Rückert. And finally, the mentioned Matra pieces, Kodály´s homage to a gorgeous region of Hungary.
This choir is the best selection of professionals and has the almost unfailing hand of López Puccio guiding them. The director explained some of the pieces in his fast, funny and nervous way, and then presented the two Latin-American encores, two joyful and artful pieces: the "Huahuancaglia" (mixture of huahuanco and passacaglia!) by Roberto Varela, and a merengue by Juan Pablo Correas.
The venue for "Le voci sottovetro" was the Centro de Arte Experimental de la UNSAM, a big warehouse of reasonable acoustics placed in Almagro. It was a concert of the Ciclo de Conciertos de Música Contemporánea of the Complejo Teatral de Buenos Aires but in this case the curator wasn´t Martín Bauer; the post was taken by Lucas Urdampilleta, who had a brilliant idea admirably executed. And by the way, both concerts were for free.
The afternoon started with that Late Renaissance masterpiece, "Semper Dowland semper dolens", l604, by John Dowland and for viola consort. The five-member Periwinkles Consort, led by Hernán Cuadrado, was quite faithful to the style. "Periwinkles" ("caracolillos marinos") are mentioned along with many other edibles in that special sort of madrigals called "cries", in which five voices evoke in counterpoint and popular inflexions "The cries of London", such as the emblematic Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625) score called thus. The Nonsense Vocal Ensemble of Soloists led by Valeria Martinelli accompanied by the Periwinkles solved well the musical problems but didn´t have the required idiomatic feeling (compare The Deller Consort).
And then, Luciano Berio´s "Cries of London", 1976. His model is Gibbons but his language is wholly contemporary and quite interesting; I only cavil at its sectionalized realisation; Gibbons is continuous, as life commands. The eight voices (unaccompanied) of the Nonsense Ensemble were much more comfortable in Berio.
Carlo Gesualdo was certainly the most advanced of Italian compòsers of late madrigalism, with incredibly expressive dissonances, witness "Tu m´uccidi, o crudele" and "Moro, lasso" (both 1611), admirably sung by a vocal quintet that included such first-rate singers as Graciela Oddone, Mariana Rewerski and Hernán Iturralde; they call themselves Capella del Fin del Mundo . I disagree with the decision of placing them in a left corridor of the first floor: they should have been in the ground floor and fully in view of the public.
I generally dislike Salvatore Sciarrino but this time I rather enjoyed "Le voci sottovetro" ("Voices under glass"), where he transcribes for countertenor and modern ensemble four pieces by Gesualdo: two dances and the same madrigals we had just heard. I found it imaginative and it gave Damián Ramírez a chance to show how stronger the voice is now; his musicality has grown too. The seven-member Ensemble Sonorama played very well (Urdampilleta at the piano).
But the acme of perfection in music and performance came with that amazing motet by Thomas Tallis, "Spem in alium" ("I have never founded my hope on any other than thee, O God of Israel"), 1573, incredibly written for 40 voices who each have their own part, an apotheosis of counterpoint. The CD by the King´s Colege Choir revealed this music to me, but it was an enormous thrill to hear it in this concert and I understood why the "warehouse" was chosen: twenty voices in groups of five at each side of the vast venue. The multiphonic effect was overwhelming and the music is the greatest of that period in England. Beautifully sung and led by Urdampilleta, paradoxically it will stand as the best thing of this "Contemporary" Cycle.
For Buenos Aires Herald