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Ciudad Konex celebrates Mozart in big festival

Violinists Shlomo Mintz (left) and Xavier Inchausti playing Mozart alongside the Camerata Bariloche at the Konex Festival.
By Pablo Bardin
For the Herald

More than 6,000 people enjoy varied menu at the second Festival of Classical Music

Konex and its president, Luis Ovsejevich, have promoted for decades opera, ballet and concerts, both classical and popular. They have shown special interest in finding new ways to approach children and teenagers in order to create new audiences for the future.

Ciudad Konex, near the Abasto at Sarmiento 3121, is a transformed oil factory with zero glamour. From a big outdoor patio, you climb to the first floor by way of a vast staircase (the lift is small and tends to malfunction), and there you find two halls, a rather large one and a smaller venue. The acoustics are reasonably good in both cases; strictly no frills and utilitarian, these places aren’t beautiful but they offer acceptable accommodations.

So it isn’t the building but what is in offer that provoked a considerable emigration of music lovers to the Ciudad Konex: from April 9 to 17, more than 6,000 people enjoyed a varied menu of Mozartian scores in the second edition of the Festival of Classical Music. The programme doesn’t feature only concerts: also The Magic Flute adapted for kids by a group from Juventus Lyrica and the same opera with puppets (Compañía Babelteatro), lectures, workshops, competitions — a vast array of activities programmed by Andrea Merenzon, who has had ample experience in dealing with such complex projects.

The results have been very positive: I chose a total of six events out of a total of 14, and was elated most of the time not only by what I already knew (the marvelous range and beauty of Mozart’s music) but by the quality of the artists. Either conflicts with other activities or reservations about two of the activities determined that I had to leave out some things: recitals of opera fragments, pianist Horacio Lavandera, The Magic Flute and a couple of chamber concerts.

The reservations were about the presence of artists from popular music playing their views on the composer’s music. Though I have no doubt that Escalandrum plays good jazz and Dino Saluzzi is a refined exponent of folklore and tango, I part company in this matter with Ovsejevich and Merenzon; they believe it is a way to introduce people to Mozart’s music, but for me Mozart shouldn’t be touched: I want him pure.

The festival started with the best concert evening: two great violinists plus the Camerata Bariloche gave us prime Mozart. Although Xavier Inchausti is nowadays even closer to perfection than Shlomo Mintz, both phrase with exquisite taste. Inchausti played Concerto No. 5, Turkish; Mintz, Concerto No. 3. And then both gave us a lovely version of that masterpiece, the Sinfonia concertante for violin (Inchausti) and viola (Mintz). Mintz also conducted a responsive Camerata in fine shape, and he did it with impeccable acumen.

Three concerts were given by the Orquesta La Filarmónica, basically a chamber version of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, conducted by the talented Carlos Vieu, who knows how to showcase Mozart in his different facets. In the first, Oriana Favaro sang nicely the aria Dove sono (preceded by its recitative) from Le Nozze di Figaro. Then, Claudio Barile played the Concerto for flute K.313; although he colours his timbre too much for classicist music, he is of course a very professional artist. Finally, a Symphony No. 40 done with plenty of contrast between the pre-Romantic drama of the first movement, the placidity of the andante, the fortitude of the minuet and the turbulent dynamism of the finale.

The second concert, although it was short measure (56 minutes) proved, on the one hand, the incredible maturity of teenage Mozart (Symphonies No. 25 and No. 29) and on the other the agreeable fluidity of Antonio Salieri in his brief Venetian Symphony (just 10 minutes). No. 25 is astonishing: the tremendous drama and vitality of the first movement heralds the strength of the No. 40. And No. 29 is varied in each of its four movements, a mosaic of moods with perfect craftmanship. The orchestra and Vieu were fully up to task.

And the third concert was important (it closed the festival): the Requiem is fundamental Mozart, even if he died before quite concluding it. I have always thought that his disciple Süssmayr only filled some gaps because the music is just too valuable not to be substantially by Mozart.

The strange orchestration that gives the lion’s part to three trombones, the great fugues that reveal how much Mozart has learnt from Johann Sebastian Bach, the beauty of the soloists’ interventions, the tragic feeling of so much of the music, leave no doubt that this Requiem was for himself.

The interpretation of this 50-minute score was first-rate. The Coro Lagun Onak under Rubén Pesce was strong and vital, the orchestra played very well (especially the trombones), Vieu showed again both his technical ability and powerful sense of phrasing. Of the soloists, I would single out the rock-solid bass-baritone Hernán Iturralde. Tenor Carlos Ullán was in good voice, and Favaro sang agreeably. Virginia Correa Dupuy (mezzosoprano) completed correctly.

I heard two chamber concerts and both were admirable. In the first, Mario Videla explained the parallel between the original preludes and fugues written by Bach in his “well-tempered clavier” and the very faithful transcriptions by Mozart for string trio and quartet. Manuel de Olaso and the Cuarteto Petrus played well, although I was sorry that the festival didn’t have a harpsichord; the modern Yamaha clavier wasn’t convincing. The same thing happened in the first of the Concerti K.107 in which Mozart added a very small chamber string ensemble to the original sonatas by J.C. Bach.

Fine playing from Diana Lopszyc in an inadequate instrument. Finally, two delicious Serenades for eight winds by crack players led by Néstor Garrote (oboe) and Mariano Rey (clarinet): K.375 and 388.

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