miércoles, agosto 03, 2016

Barenboim´s brief homage to Ginastera and Salgán

            When I wrote about the first programme of the Barenboim Festival (Mozart symphonies) I mentioned the very high prices. But at least that was for a long (90 minutes) programme of masterpieces beautifully interpreted. The second concert was a very different story: the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra  (WEDO) under Daniel Barenboim played for 46 minutes including the encore! In other words, we had half a concert for the same high price and for less important music.

            Alberto Ginastera and Horacio Salgán were born in the same year, 1916; Ginastera died in 1983 but Salgán is still alive. Although nowadays Piazzolla is more often played in  concerts, he was basically a crossover composer blending tango and classical; Ginastera is recognised as the most important Argentine creator on the latter field.  And Salgán is, along with Piazzolla, a great tango personality. They both merit a homage, but a better-designed one.

            Mind you, although Barenboim is unquestionably a world-class conductor and pianist of the classical repertoire, he has been vividly interested in the tango for decades, and I remember his tango recitals at the Gran Rex (he was recorded). He wasn´t an innovator like Gerardo Gandini in his fascinating improvisations: Barenboim´s playing was traditional though impeccable. (His incursion into Brazilian popular music was less convincing).

            Horacio Salgán´s enormous career has never fallen to banality; his work both as composer and as pianist was always marked by a profound knowledge of the genre and a decided rejection of showy effects. In a tango instrumental world often given to exaggerated rhythm and clichés, his voice was distinctive: he obtained subtlety in melody and harmony and gave rhythm its due witout overstressing.

            He kept active until his early nineties as pianist of the admirable Quinteto Real (guitar, bandoneon, violin, bass), an outfit that boasted  the special magic of Antonio Agri, violinist nonpareil, and  the intimate empathy of Salgán with Ubaldo De Lío in guitar (Salgán sometimes played just in duo with De Lío).

            A moot point: Barenboim chose Ginastera´s Violin Concerto (1963). ¿Did anyone tell him that it has already been played at the Colón this year by the Buenos Aires Philharmonic under Enrique Arturo Diemecke with his brother Paul as soloist?  It was the revival of the score after its faroff première in 1965. I quote myself: it is a "Neo-Expressionist, twelve-tone composition. A tough, difficult, harsh score. The form of the Concerto is sui generis: the bruising five-minute cadenza comes at the very beginning"; then a group of six Etudes with a coda.

            "The Adagio for 22 soloists is one of the few lyric fragments" (though interrupted by angry outbursts). "Then, something very typical of Ginastera´s aural imagination: a Scherzo pianissimo, ´always flighty, mysterious and on the verge of silence´. And a short virtuosic ´Perpetuum mobile´".  In what is for me only the second time I heard the Concerto,  in this other family tandem interpretation, Daniel with his son Michael, plus the WEDO´s youthful talents, I was more aware of the refined timbric work of the composer.

            Michael played with accomplished technique though his tone is never big, and his father gave yet another lesson of magisterial conducting, obtaining from the WEDO a high degree of precision and affinity with the music´s character.

            Salgán: Barenboim addressed the audience after the interval telling them that the doctor had decided that the centenary maestro should stay at home. Then, he announced a "surprise": the new Quinteto Real would play first; if Wikipedia is right, César Salgán (piano), Julio Peressini (violin), Esteban Falabella (guitar), Carlos Corrales (bandoneon) and Juan Pablo Navarro (bass). Barenboim gave the titles of two pieces: "Recuerdo" and "Canaro en París"; they also played an encore I couldn´t place.  They play well but in my memory they don´t compete with what I heard many years ago. However, considering that the WEDO played only three Salgán tangos for about 13 minutes, the extra minutes offered by the Quinteto made partial amends.

            Another moot point: no credit was given for the symphonic arrangements; I believe they are by José Carli though I´m not quite sure; anyway, it´s unacceptable that he (or someone else) wasn´t credited. But the music is beautiful and was very well played in the proper style: "Don Agustín Bardi", "Aquellos tangos camperos" and the famous "A fuego lento".

            The encore was by Mariano Mores: "El firulete" (arranged by Carli for winds), quite nicely played. It´s worth remembering that Barenboim conducted it with the Berlin Philharmonic at the gigantic outdoor Waldbühne.

            I close with an announcement by Darío Lopérfido: the Barenboim Festival will include in 2018 the complete staged Wagner opera "Tristan und Isolde", with Peter Seiffert and Anja Kampe if the Colón´s Director´s wishes come to fruition. And in Harry Kupfer´s production. It would be the result of the agreement with Barenboim´s Berlin Staatsoper. Why then the maimed concert version of last year? (Prelude, Second Act, Liebestod).  It should be a pretty good "Tristan", but again "Die Meistersinger" will have to wait as it has since 1980.

For Buenos Aires Herald

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