November 23, 2017
Tuesday, September 27, 2016

And the orchestras played on despite disorder

Chilean Francisco Rettig conducts the National Symphony at the CCK.
Chilean Francisco Rettig conducts the National Symphony at the CCK.
Chilean Francisco Rettig conducts the National Symphony at the CCK.
By Pablo Bardin
For the Herald

BA Philharmonic and the National Symphony performed in consecutive days at the CCK

Chaos at the Usina del Arte: for the third time this year, a concert — this time by the Buenos Aires Philharmonic — announced since March by the Colón to take place there, had to be moved to another venue, in this case the CCK’s Blue Whale (called now the Sala Sinfónica or Symphonic Hall).

Chaos at the National Symphony (Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional): as the Culture Ministry administration pays absurdly late, renowned Chilean conductor Francisco Rettig had already cancelled one of the concerts programmed with his presence; the second, in which he was supposed to lead Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex (already cancelled a couple of seasons ago for similar reasons), took place with Rettig though with a different programme. He was finally paid for last year’s performances, but so late that the orchestral parts of Oedipus Rex were sent back to its foreign editors. So he had to choose one of his specialties available in the orchestra’s archive: Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony.

A sad story, and with a very bad outcome. Worn down by a continuous fight of many years, the Orchestra’s stalwart programmer, Ciro Ciliberto, finally quit. He had been a key figure during the long Calderón tenure; the ailing and aged conductor finally stepped down last year after inaugurating the Blue Whale and Ciliberto was left in sole command as programmer and organizer. The policy was to have guest conductors known to the orchestra and of firm renown (Rettig, Lano, Diemecke, Neuhold) and talented young Argentine conductors, and avoid for the time being naming a new Principal Conductor. That was so both in 2015 and 2016.

Now the destiny of the National Symphony is in the hands of a committee of capable first desks of the orchestra, but it will be tough for them to replace the constant day-to-day work of Ciliberto, a capable and hard-working man to whom the National Symphony and the audience owe a great homage, for without him the National Symphony wouldn’t have surmounted uncounted problems due to the uncooperating Culture Ministry administration. Frankly I have little hope of an amelioration: what’s needed is a wholesale renovation with new, sane and workable rules, with strong sanctions against offenders.

Let’s go back to the Buenos Aires Philharmonic: it was their first concert at the Blue Whale, so they had to adapt to acoustics they didn’t know. The Phil had the benefit of refurbished acoustics that have diminished the bothersome stridency of the brass and percussion, for now a curtain behind the orchestra is veiling the black granite wall.

Luis Gorelik, born 1963, is an experienced Argentine conductor, disciple of Calderón and of Mendi Rodan in Israel. In recent years, he has been Principal Conductor of the Salta and Entre Ríos Orchestras, and currently he is also Principal Conductor of the Filiberto Orchestra.

The Phil played first the charming Boïeldieu Harp Concerto (1795) in which he wrote in gallant style what is still the most popular of the not abundant concerted literature for this instrument. Lucrecia Jancsa, first desk of the National Symphony, played it tastefully and mostly accurately, though her volume is small. She gave us a nice encore melody, which sounded French to me. The orchestra accompanied well.

The tremendous ballets Stravinsky wrote for Diaghilev between 1910 and 1913 are still the most famous of all his compositions. Rite of Spring (1913) is the most important, but Petrushka (1911) is the one many of us like best, for its enormously innovative and varied music. For some reason, Rite of Spring was initially programmed, but Petrushka in its 1947 revision was played instead; no complaints from me. The solo playing could be improved and the first minutes were rather garbled, but matters settled down and we finally had an attractive version, well understood by Gorelik.

Now to the National Symphony: Rettig is a Bruckner connoisseur and his Fourth was predictably well built and conducted from memory. His style is sober, maybe too much so, but always very musical. Most of the playing was quite good, but the first horn wasn’t up to par. I would have preferred the longer Seventh or Eighth, but the one-hour Fourth was a last-minute replacement.

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