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July 21, 2017
Friday, May 19, 2017

Mozarteum Argentino underlines its importance with memorable concerts

By Pablo Bardin
For the Herald

Visitors from Venice and Munich both stylish and professional

The Mozarteum Argentino is now a venerable institution and no-one doubts that its trajectory is matchless in our country. The first two items of this year’s season proved once again the acumen of its Artistic Director Gisela Timmermann and the fine leadership of President Luis Alberto Erize, for they presented in their two subscription series concerts at the Colón admirable interpretations of Mozart and Vivaldi respectively, by the Munich Chamber Orchestra, with violinist Veronika Eberle, and the Venice Baroque Orchestra, with mezzo Romina Basso.

German visitors

The Munich outfit has visited us several times before. Founded by Christoph Stepp in 1950, its local début was in 1955 led by its founder Christoph Stepp; they came back in 1960 at the Museo de Arte Decorativo in the eighth season of the Mozarteum and with Hans Stadlmair, who was their leader for almost four decades. They visited us for the Mozarteum two more times before the present one, though without their current conductor, Alexander Liebreich.

In this tour the concertino was the Oriental Soyeun Kang (in early announcements it was going to be Giglberger) and she ran the show from her post with almost imperceptible gestural indications. But the other 12 violins plus four violas, three cellos, two basses, one flute, two oboes, two bassoons and two horns (not always was the whole used), a total of 29 counting the concertino, were unflinchingly together, as the true and stylish professionals that they are.

There were two programmes where only Mozart’s Symphony No. 33 was played in both, with talented violinist Veronika Eberle making her local début. In fact Symphony No. 33 replaced the originally announced No. 29, for this one collided with the Kammerakademie Potsdam’s programme scheduled for June 14; a pity that an early Mozart Cassazione (a type of Divertimento) mentioned to begin the first of two concerts wasn’t included.

Symphony No. 33 in B flat, K.319, is rarely played and less interesting than other symphonies before the big six (35, 36, 38 to 41) such as Nos. 25, 29, 31 and 34, but it is a work of charm and consummate ability in its four compact movements. It was beautifully played and served as an apéritif to one of the two great moments of the first concert: the immaculate reading of Mozart’s Violin Concerto Nº4, K.218 by Eberle and the orchestra. He wrote five in the brief time of nine months in 1775, when he was 19. Eberle, now 27, a disciple of the great Ana Chumachenco, showed grace, refinement and transparent articulation, as well as impeccable taste in the small cadenzas added at appropriate points where the orchestral music arrives to a pause. The encore was Kreisler’s Liebesleid (“Love’s sorrows”).

After the interval I didn’t enjoy the première of Hirta rounds by the Irish composer David Fennessy (born 1976), for me it is boring minimalism. After the brief Lyric Andante for strings, an agreeable piece by Reger far from his usual dense writing, we came to the other high spot of the evening: a wonderful performance of that very special Symphony No. 45 (“Farewell”) by Franz Joseph Haydn. It’s one of the “Sturm und drang” symphonies (44 to 49), a precocious harbinger of Romanticism during Classicism parallelled in literature by Schiller and Goethe. Written in 1772, indeed it starts with a stormy first movement in F sharp minor, a complex tonality rarely used at the time. Followed by a melancholy Adagio and a formal Menuet, the last delicate movement makes us understand the “Farewell” sobriquet, as players gradually leave their seats until the last phrase is played only by the concertino: it was the composer’s subtle way to suggest to his patron, Prince Esterházy, that it was time to leave their Summer Palace and go back to Eisenstadt, their winter home; and the Prince complied. The playing was exquisite and stylish throughout, and led to the encore, the last movement of, yes, Mozart’s Symphony No. 29!

The second concert started with Mozart’s Symphony No. 33, followed by his Concerto No. 5 for violin, called “Turkish” because of an episode in the last movement that parodies that music. It innovates by interrupting the first movement’s Allegro by an elegiac violin Adagio before the return of the Allegro. Eberle was marginally less convincing, not so exact in her playing and with added cadenzas sometimes too exotic for comfort in Mozart, but still quite good, as was the orchestra (whose only flaw in both concerts came from small smudges from the horns).

We had Eberle also after the interval, for she played three Kreisler pieces: Schön Rosmarin (“Beautiful Rosemary”), Liebesleid and Liebesfreud (“Love’s joys”), orchestrated simply, for the violin soloist always leads (orchestrations unidentified). These are charming tidbits justly famous, and Eberle played them with the care and distinction they merit.

The lovely Symphony No. 5 by Schubert, written at 19 in 1816, is a homage to Mozart but with the harmonic and melodic sensitivity that distinguished the great Pre-Romantic of tragically short life. The performance was delightful though without personal touches. A pity that their encore was a repeat of the Menuet.

Venetian visitors

The Venice Baroque Orchestra sports its English name, though it should properly be called the Orchestra Barocca di Venezia. It was founded in 1997 by investigator and harpsichordist Andrea Marcon.

Since their inception they have completed pioneering work rediscovering and in certain cases recording operas by Cavalli, Vivaldi, B.Marcello and Boccherini. On this début tour they didn’t come with Marcon but concertino Gianpiero Zanocco proved a splendid leader. And with them came a talented mezzo, Romina Basso (also a début) who has recorded five Vivaldi operas (!) and been a soloist with a redoubtable covey of specialist ensembles. Together thay gave a memorable all-Vivaldi programme presenting two Sinfonias, four Concerti and six opera arias. A veritable feast disproving the still existing prejudice about Vivaldi’s sameness, for the evening was a constant discovery of contrasting marvels.

The group is basically a string ensemble (13-strong) plus harpsichord, but one of the violinists, Anna Fusek, is also a virtuoso player of the sopranino recorder and she wowed the audience with the Concerto RV 443 (RV: Ryom Verzeichnis=Ryom catalogue). The other concerti were for two violins, RV 516 (Zanocco, Giorgio Baldan) and the only one for two cellos, RV 531 (Massino Raccanelli Zaborra, Federico Toffano). Excellent playing save for some acidity in high long notes from the violins, probably because they use no vibrato at all (they are very historicist in style, with strong dramatic colours, though their strings are metallic, not guts). The two Sinfonias were brief, in G major (RV 146) and minor (RV 157); the sinfonias of that time were like the concertos but without soloists, nothing to do with classicist symphonies.

The treat of the evening was the very different operatic arias: they were turbulent in Bajazet, dramatic and slow in Farnace, florid in Orlando furioso, mild in Atenaide, expressive in Giustino and fast, intense in Argippo. Musso has a remarkable technique and range, as well as theatrical temperament. She proved adaptable to dissimilar mooods and capped the evening with that wonderful slow Händel aria, Lascia ch’io pianga, from Rinaldo.

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