We have just lived a rich symphonic week, led by the Buenos Aires Philharmonic and the Teatro Argentino. The first, conducted by Enrique Arturo Diemecke, gave us the long-awaited return of Philippe Entremont, still active and technically in shape weeks away from his 82nd birthday, playing Beethoven´s First Concerto. And to boot, the hour-long magnificent Fourth Symphony ("Romantic") by Bruckner. As to the Argentino, their musical director Carlos Vieu tackled no less than the overwhelming "Resurrection Symphony" (Nº2) by Mahler.
Entremont has had an enormous career, for this Frenchman born at Reims started at l8 when he played Jolivet and Liszt concerti at Carnegie Hall with great success. During the last thirty years he added conducting, and as such he came here at least twice at the front of the Vienna Chamber Orchestra ( he was also Chief Conductor of the Denver Symphony). When he was 80, a box of 19 CDs compiled all his recordings of concerti. I was lucky enough to hear him twice in recitals back in 1957 at Washington, where I was studying, but I don´t remember when he was here as a pianist; such information should be in his hand programme biography but it isn´t.
He is still very much worth hearing: the playing was clean and stylish, with fine timbre and clever use of the pedal. A minor misadjustment at the coda of the last movement matters little. In the first movement he played the shorter of the three cadenzas left by Beethoven, but he added some extra music that might be his. Diemecke and the Phil accompanied well. Entremont ´s encore was Chopin, the brief and charming Three Écossaises that I used to relish when played by Brailowsky. Entremont´s interpretation was airy and rhythmically free.
Diemecke has demonstrated before that the great symphonic challenges are for him; he has confronted Bruckner´s heavenly lengths before and has managed to give this controversial composer the necessary coherence, the care for its chamber moments and the immense power of the abundant climaxes. The Fourth, "Romantic", has been done often in our city and under first-rate maestros such as Moralt, Van Otterloo or Decker. In fact, it is the most often played, along with the Seventh and Eighth, and with good reason, for it has lovely melodies, stirring impact, feats of counterpoint, and an ambience of its own in Bruckner´s peculiar evocation from a Romantic point of view of Medieval castles, cities, knights and hunts. We generally hear the revised version; the original was heard here only once, by Rozhdestvensky and the Vienna Symphony.
The Phil was at its very best, with unfailing work from that most dicey section, the horns, and a high degree of concentration from all concerned. And again there was that irritating contradiction in Diemecke´s personality: his inane and unnecessary comments and his world-class conducting.
Again after the applause the orchestra protested with placards saying "carrera 2012?". To decode it, the players are showing their anger because they are claiming since 2012 that their "career" be recognised with money added to their salary; in other words, e.g., a first violin with 25 years of experience in the Phil deserves better payment than one that entered last year. Seems fair to me.
Mahler´s Second has marked my musical life so stromngly that I have to declare my very special predilection for a score so elevated and masterful that it restores my faith in humanity...at least whilst I´m listening to it. It was one of my very early vinyl albums back in 1951, when I was twelve: the wonderful Klemperer/Vienna Symphony recording. But the first live performance in BA was only during the Illia presidency, led by A.C. Paita. From then on it was heard with some frequency: Calderón, Bodmer (at the Bombonera!), Decker, even Mehta with the Israel Philharmonic! (wonderful), and last year´s high point with Diemecke and the National Symphony at the Blue Whale.
At La Plata Luis Gorelik did an interesting Nº2 some years ago. Currently the Argentino goes through a difficult period marked by budget restrictions and plans of building restoration. But there are stalwart facts in their concert life: a big orchestra of good standard conducted by Vieu, one of our most able artists; and a splendid chorus well prepared by Sánchez Arteaga. So the basic conditions are there, and if we add the positive spirit with which they worked, and an enthusiastic big audience, plus two talented soloists, mezzosoprano Florencia Machado and soprano Daniela Tabernig, things had to go well, and they did.
Foremost, Vieu commanded the extremely complex and fascinating score, and had lucid phrasing ideas. Not all players were perfect but only one thing jarred, the ugly bells (they must be changed), after all not the fault of the instrumentalist. But so much was right that, after a tremendous First Movement (the huge Funeral March) and the fantasy of the following two, the mezzo sang "Urlicht" ("Original Light") from "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" as the moving interlude before the gigantic Fifth movement, and we were ready for the total catharsis of the greatest choral-symphonic music, on Klopstock´s Resurrection ode, but only after almost twenty minutes of traversing the most contrasting moods imaginable.
The chorus enters "pianissimo" and from then on the music grows and grows (adding the two soloists) until the most glorious final minutes in history.
For Buenos Aires Herald