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April 24, 2014
Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A change of guard at Nuova Harmonia

The concert hall of the Coliseo.
By Pablo Bardin
For the Herald

Marta Pires, Elisabetta Riva to take over from longtime leader Dino Rawa-Jasinski

The Teatro Coliseo is a special case, for it is the only one owned abroad by the state of Italy. It is, in fact, the second Coliseo in the same place, and it was inaugurated on different architectural lines during 1961 with symphonic concerts led by Nino Sanzogno. The first Coliseo was basically an opera theatre; the second instead has been fundamentally a concert auditorium, with its big capacity of about 2,000 seats. Not only classical concerts, also quality popular ones. And many seasons of Les Luthiers, as well as “Rugantino” (Manfredi, Vanoni and Fabrizi) and Gassman.

It was used very sparsely for chamber opera without a pit (Vivaldi, Pergolesi), but in 2007 and 2009, as a result of the Colón’s search for an alternative during closure, the people at the Coliseo remembered that the original pit of the first Coliseo still was extant and could be used with some retouching; and indeed it was, witness no less than Strauss’ Elektra, proof of a 100-player pit. As the years went by, there was a growing acknowledgment from the Italian community both here and in Italy that the Coliseo was a natural place for a classical music cycle of international quality, to compensate the underuse of the theatre and to have a proper balance in the city’s offer in that field. That was about 30 years ago.

The Coliseo had provided an alternative to the Colón and facilitated things by its mere availability, even if its rather dry acoustics weren’t to all tastes (dry but clean, not boxed in). And now it would have its own cycle, Harmonia. Well-funded, it presented traditionally-oriented concerts of high level. Its president from the start was Dino Rawa-Jasinski, who proved dynamic and efficacious in the hard logistics of providing a cycle with minimal hitches.

In a few years Harmonia was solidly installed, bringing over outstanding artists in instrumental, chamber and symphonic music. But the crisis of 2002 proved too much for its financial structure based on local sponsoring, and the Italian Government came to the rescue providing most of the money and renaming the institution to Nuova Harmonia. Rawa remained stalwartly at the helm, and so it was until this year. 2002-4 were basically Italian, and then Rawa (as he had done before) brought the musical association to what I feel is only sane and logical, a cosmopolitanism that gave us the best from many European countries. Though always with Italian representation.

And so it was until late this year, when I was invited to the traditional end-of-year lunch in which Rawa chatted with local critics and unveiled the plans for the next season. Only this time it wasn’t Rawa, but two young ladies that will lead Nuova Harmonia from now on. The long and prestigious Rawa cycle was over.

The two ladies are called Marta Pires (of Portuguese origin) and Elisabetta Riva, current leaders of the Fundación Cultural Coliseum, which has controlled the Coliseo during the Rawa years. I had an excellent conversation with them, and was assured that, though they will bring more Italian numbers, they will do so well balanced with the artists from other countries. Meanwhile, 2014 will be a transition season, with 70 percent planned by Rawa and 30 percent by Pires and Riva. I do hope for a more adventurous view of programming in 2015, the only defect during the Rawa era being that he played too safe. Some opera and ballet might be present. (The Coliseo has in recent years presented, outside the Rawa cycle and in association with other organizers, several ballet galas).

As in former years, seven concerts will take place at the Coliseo and three at the Colón. Coliseo: the splendid duo of Boris Belkin (violin) and Michele Campanella will give on April 24 Mozart, Schubert and Franck. May 5: L’Arte del Mondo Orchestra (German in spite of its title) will be led by Werner Ehrhardt with violinist Daniel Hope in Mozart (Symphony No.29 and First Violin Concerto), Mendelssohn (the early Concerto for violin and strings) and Johann Christian Bach (the rarely heard Double Concerto).

The Stradivarius Sextet plus Argentine pianist Eduardo Hubert (of Argerich Festivals fame) on May 22 have programmed Brahms’ marvelous First Sextet and works by Hubert and Bacalov. Then, a curious concert of arrangements on June 10 by Concerto Pianoforti, a group of three Italian pianists (there’s almost no repertoire for three pianos): transcriptions of the suite from Shostakovich’s Moskva, Chernomushki, an operetta; of the 1919 suite from Stravinsky’s The Firebird; of Debussy’s La Mer; and of fragments from the Offenbach-Rosenthal ballet Gaîté Parisienne. Sole piece originally for three pianos: Boccadoro’s Vaalbara. The Camerata (or is it Cappella?; both appellations are present in the information) Istropolitana will be back on August 14 playing Janácek, Vivaldi, Sammartini, Torelli, Donizetti and Shostakovich. The Lucerne Symphony Orchestra led by James Gaffigan will be heard on September 12 with Renaud Capuçon in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, plus Weber’s Oberon Overture and the beautiful Dvorák Sixth Symphony (good choice). October 8: Swiss Piano Trio (Beethoven, Wettstein and Dvorák).

At the Colón. September 29: Bruno Walter Symphony (Jack Martin Handler) with Stefan Stroissnig in Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto. October 20: Moscow Soloists (Yuri Bashmet) in Mozart, Schubert, Bruch and Schubert-Mahler (Death and the Maiden). November 8: Beijing Symphony (Tau Lihua) with Chinese music and Prokofiev (a suite from Romeo and Juliet).

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