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September 26, 2017
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A rewarding trip out of the City

By Pablo Bardin
For the Herald

Music off-CABA in San Isidro and Avellaneda

We lovers of classical music have plenty to satisfy our tastes right here but sometimes there are attractive things off-CABA, and within range. We can’t go to Rosario and be back the same night, but it is possible to enjoy a concert, a ballet or an opera in places where the round trip doesn’t go beyond two hours. Such is the case of San Isidro and Avellaneda, the ones I will cover in this article.

For the 10th consecutive year San Isidro implemented a five-day festival, “El Camino del Santo” (“The Saint’s Road”) during Easter Week, which is always programmed by pianist José Luis Juri. Although the city’s historic centre is beautiful, it lacks an auditorium apt for orchestral concerts; but the Colegio San Juan el Precursor, just in front of the splendid cathedral, has an ample hall with good acoustics and its stage is large enough for chamber music ensembles. (And going to it you will see a marvellous Andalousian patio with fine majolicas). Both that hall and the cathedral were hosts to attractive concerts, but the San José Church was used for two and I found it far too resonant.

I heard four of the six concerts; there were also a puppet adaptation of Mozart’s Bastien und Bastienne, a short operatic comedy written by a child and seen by children in this case. And an encounter with the great Chilean pianist Edith Fischer too, who heard young pianists and spoke with the audience. Although I enjoyed some of the concerts, I think that programming should take much more into account that this festival is supposed to take heed of Easter’s special meaning and frankly it doesn’t.

The initial “Vocal-instrumental gala” took place at San José and had some changes due to travel difficulties (clarinettist Mariano Rey and bandoneon player Carla Algeri couldn’t get back to Argentina in time). So the first item, Poulenc’s charming Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (Rey and Juri) was cancelled, and Juri, who presented (and thanked Mayor Gustavo Posse and Eleonora Jaureguiberry, the undersecretary for general culture, for their support), later intercalated Debussy’s Prelude Nº24, “Fireworks,” and although he had an injured hand, passed the test admirably, as befits a pianist of his quality.

Virginia Correa Dupuy (mezzo) and Fernanda Morello (piano), gave exquisite performances of a charming rococo evocation by Reynaldo Hahn (À Chloris) and that irresistible Poulenc waltz, Les chemins de l’amour (his announced Fêtes galantes wasn’t performed). Four preludes by Shostakovich, youthful but very characteristic, were arranged by Tsyganov for violin and piano from the 24 Preludes for Piano; they were performed very professionally by Oleg Pishenin and Iván Rutkauskas. Then, mezzo Cecilia Díaz, in very good voice, gave intense performances of Respighi’s Nebbie (“Clouds”) and of Esser madre è un inferno, from Cilea’s L’Arlesiana, well accompanied by Eduviges Picone. Followed a wonderful performance of the one-movement Elegiac Trio Nº 1 by Rachmaninov by the Trío Williams (Antonio Formaro, piano; Nicolás Favero, piano; Siro Bellisomi, cello).

Next in this long concert, and out of order, was a virtuoso interpretation by Morello of El albaicín, from Iberia by Albéniz. Then, the duet Rosa Incaica (Anneliese Skovmand, voice; Pablo González Jazey, guitar) gave agreeable versions of typical Guastavino: four songs from Los pájaros (“The birds”). In stark contrast, tenor Duilio Smiriglia (of Pavarottian proportions), sang in full and true tenor voice two Italian standards: Nessun dorma from Puccini’s Turandot and O sole mio by De Curtis (Picone accompanied). Finally, pianist Emiliano Greco and bandoneonist Federico Pereiro gave imaginative interpretations of Piazzolla’s Oblivion and Adiós Nonino.

Unreserved kudos for the marvellous two-piano recital given by Edith Fischer and her husband Jorge Pepi-Alos at San Juan el Precursor. Not only for the accuracy and perfect ensemble but primarily because they are masters of style; the quality was even throughout. Five Bach chorales arranged by Kurtág with impeccable care, Schubert’s moving Fantasia in F minor, Brahms’ Haydn Variations and the devilish arrangement by Ravel of his extraordinary orchestral La valse, all beads of an ideal chain.

I’ve had many happy experiences hearing Capilla del Sol, a splendid vocal-instrumental ensemble of the Museo Fernández Blanco, led since its inception by Ramiro Albino (well-known by Herald veterans for his columns), and dedicated to the Ibero-American Baroque. Their midday concert at the Cathedral (shortened, lamentably), alternated villancicos (Christmas carols) by Juan de Arauxo and anonymous from two manuscripts, 1706 and 1709; vocal pieces alternated with dances. Two sopranos, a contralto and a tenor, and four players, gave full life to this fresh, joyful music, so much worth knowing.

Unfortunately, the Orquesta Académica del Teatro Colón conducted by Francisco Noya sounded very strident at the San José Church. The short programme had a first section of orchestral arrangements of scores by Johann Sebastian Bach. I was angry that the announced Toccata and Fugue in D minor in Stokowski’s version wasn’t played (I will never forget Disney’s Fantasia, which starts with it) but the very difficult Schönberg orchestration of the substantial Prelude and Fugue Saint Anne, BWV 552, was certainly intriguing, even with some uncertain playing; the famous Aria from Suite Nº 3 was barely retouched by Mahler; and the noble neo-romantic Elgar scoring of the Fantasy and Fugue BWV 537 was worth hearing.

But the second section was botched, with two film scores quite out of place in a church: the pleasant music by Silvestri for Forrest Gump and the stentoreous main title music by John Williams for Star wars.

AVELLANEDA’S ROMA

The old small Roma has been rejuvenated and looks quite nice. I’m happy that it’s back in action. And glad that Boris had the initiative to finally première Francesco Cilea’s L’Arlesiana (1897, revised several times) coinciding with the last performances of Adriana Lecouvreur at the Colón (that theatre twice programmed the former but failed to present it). It turns out that the music is dramatic and even tragic with fine moments; not only the aforementioned mezzo aria and the famous tenor aria called Lamento di Federico, but also many other passages. Leopoldo Marenco’s three-act libretto is based on Alphonse Daudet’s play L’Arlésienne, which originated an important incidental music by Georges Bizet.

It needs big voices and we had them. The passionate singing of mezzo María Luján Mirabelli was surely one of her best performances; Nazareth Aufe played and sang his suicidal Federico with little charisma but sang all the notes; baritone Leonardo López Linares as the old shepherd Baldassare may have been unsubtle but his voice was always sure and powerful; baritone Mariano Gladic was very good as Metifio, erstwhile lover of that Arlesian that never appears on stage, and soprano Laura Polverini sang Vivetta (who is in love with Federico) quite well. Minor parts were correctly assumed by Germán Polón and Alfredo Martínez.

Alas, the staging was poor, neither stage designs (Zacaria Gianni) nor costumes (Maria Vucetich) were well conceived, and Boris started well but ended with gross distortions. And the mediocre Orquesta Sinfónica Municipal de Avellaneda was allowed such enormous volume by conductor Jorge Lhez that even strong-voiced singers were swamped. To boot, the hand programme was miserable and the supertitles illegible and ineptly handled. I hope they improved in later performances.

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