For decades one of the best features of our musical life has been the Fundación Música de Cámara under the artistic direction of Guillermo Opitz. The veteran maestro is the last of the great German/Austrian teachers, organisers and composers in the line of Guillermo Graetzer (founder of the Collegium Musicum), Erwin Leuchter, Ernesto Epstein, and the Franzes (father and son). They have all brought to us their deep knowledge and have contributed essentially to the cultural maturing of several generations.
The FMC programmes concerts in embassies and residences of quality, and among them an awaited and yearly venue is the marvelous Sans Souci Palace close to San Fernando, surely one of the most beautiful in Argentina, and surrounded by idyllic gardens and fountains. The place is of course used for special events, particularly marriages; its main hall hosts the FMC, and for it Opitz presents each season a completely different and variegated programme combining singers and pianists that he has painstakingly trained during the preceding months. Granted, the acoustics are too resonant, but the hall (including its lateral right wing) is always chockfull of enthusiastic music lovers and the ambience is unique in the warmth of young people giving their best under the impeccable guidance of Opitz.
The maestro again surprised in the panorama he gave of German Romanticism with both vocal and instrumental pieces. Twelve composers, nineteen scores, seven singers and six players, in choices that not only completely avoid the hackneyed but dig out fascinating pieces probably in local premières, and stress rare combinations; I have a fifty-year career as a reviewer, but half of what I heard was new to me.
I don´t have the space to mention everything, but you´ll soon see why these concerts are true events. Louis Spohr is rarely heard nowadays, but his "German songs" for soprano, clarinet and piano are very attractive, and we heard them by fine artists: soprano Carolina Gómez has a brilliant lovely voice well used, Sofía Kujta is a clarinet talent and José Azar proved a fine accompanist throughout the evening. The Weber songs we heard were for voice and guitar, not piano, and revealed the warm timbre of bass Roman Modzelewski, able to sing softly in the high regions.
The great Romantic Robert Schumann was present with rarely heard material: two pieces from the "Minnespiel" ("Love play") on Rückert texts: the first for mezzo and baritone, the second for vocal quartet. It allowed us to hear the fresh voices of soprano Valentina Merlo, mezzo Anahí Fernández Caballero and tenor Josué Miranda, the expressivity of baritone Gabriel Vacas and the clean articulation of pianist Miranda Herrera. And a lively Piece for clarinet, viola and piano by Bruch let us meet the assured playing of violist Juan Manuel Castellanos (with Kujta and Azar).
In the Second Part I enjoyed two Lieder by Strauss in which soprano Gómez was accurate and versatile, accompanied by Herrera with real comprehension of the composer´s innovative way of writing for the piano. One cavil: "Himmelsboten" ("Messengers from Heaven") should be sung by a man according to the text. And then, in the final three composers Opitz observed an old tradition of these concerts: a semistaging, in this case by Lizzie Waisse, due to the theatrical character of the chosen pieces.
Peter Cornelius wrote a funny parody: "Der Tod des Verräters" ("The death of the traitor") in which three men in turn or combined sing "I die the death of a traitor", "You die...", "He dies...", etc., accusing each other by gestures. Miranda, Vacas and Modzelewski (with Herrera, the very professional pianist for all the final scores) communicated well.
Carl Loewe is the admirable composer of lengthy ballads that should be better known; he has a personal voice, and the piano writing is difficult. But in this case we heard two charming duets on Goethe poems for soprano, contralto and piano from Op.104: "An Sami" ("To Sami") and "Die Freude" ("Joy"). Merlo and Fernández Caballero did very well in the rippling melismas of the second.
To end the evening, the girls of Loewe and the boys of Cornelius sang together a "Kinderkonzert" ("Concert for kids") by the almost unknown Hermann Zilcher (1891-1948) in which everyone "plays" a different instrument. And they said goodbye with "For Eternity, amen!". Good clean fun and we went home elated.