Verona, Teatro Filarmonico, Il Settembre dell’Accademia 2018.
Youth Orchestra of Bahia
Conductor Ricardo Castro
Pianist Martha Argerich
Richard Wagner: “Die Meistersinger Von Nürnberg” (Act 1 Prelude)
Robert Schumann: Piano Concerto in A min Op.54
Leonard Bernstein: “West Side Story”(Ouverture)
Alberto Ginastera:”Estancia” (Suite)
Wellington Gomes:” Sonhos Percutidos”
George Gershwin: “Cuban Overture” (Rumba)
Arturo Márquez: Danzon n.2
Verona, 12th September 2018
A young, fresh, inspirational orchestra from the New World took its place alongside some of the most prestigious and established orchestras from the Old World, represented by Dresden, Milan, Rome and London, in the programme of Verona’s Il Settembre all’Accademia concert series. On tour in Italy with the extraordinary Marta Argerich, well known for the time and energy she devotes to promoting young musicians, the Youth Orchestra of Bahia(YOBA) showcased the astounding results that can be obtained by the Venezuelan Abreu system of musical education, implemented in the Brazilian state of Bahia in 2007 under the guidance of Ricardo Castro, and now reaching 4,600 young people. Recognition for the results obtained, as seen in this performance by the scheme’s principal orchestra, must go to the conductor Ricardo Castro, also an esteemed pianist in his own right. Refreshing to see the string section made up of black and coloured players, a rarity in the rest of the world, playing with such technical ease, style and proficiency.
The first half of the programme was devoted to the traditional European concert repertoire and the second half to American composers of 20th century. The concert opened with Wagner’s Meistersinger Ouverture commendably played in all its declamatory grandiloquence, an introduction to the drawcard of the evening, Marta Argerich’s performance of the Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor. In her 60 year career this was her first performance in Verona and the packed and expectant audience exploded into an ovation at her appearance on stage. Despite a telling slow and arduous walk to the piano which presaged a distilled and controlled performance, the moment she launched into her first entry with a peal of cascading peremptory chords her masterful musical grasp never yielded. In her own inimitable way she brought out the quality and variety of Schumann’s musical invention, striving to establish an intense dialogue with the orchestral instruments in the exchange and exuberant overlapping of musical cues. To match and balance her exceptional musical personality, the alternating delicacy and firmness of her touch, the subtlety of her colours, the richness and variety in the elasticity of her phrasing and the wonderment of the illuminating details she highlights throughout, would be exacting for an experienced orchestra and this young orchestra made an admirable and committed attempt. True to the context, Argerich refused to take bows alone, sharing them with the orchestra. As often happens in her concerts the encore was a piece for four hands, with the conductor as her partner. The choice was the 5th and final piece The Fairy Garden[Le Jardin Féerique) from The Mother Goose Suite(Ma mère l’Oye) by Ravel. Simple and refined in style and technique the two pianists evoked the poetry of infancy Ravel aimed for in this piece.
The second half of the programme could easily have been called “And Now For Something Completely Different”, first for the selection and variety of American works by American composers but mainly for the progressive release of formal composure on the part of the instrumentalists. The easy, comfortable, harmonious and graceful style of playing in the first half of the evening was unleashed in the second half in a repertory congenial in style, tradition and identity to the members of the orchestra. After a fairly conventional rendition of Bernstein’s West Side Story Ouverture where elements of a general loosening up were already clearly suggested, by the end of the concluding movement of the Argentinian composer Ginastera’s Orchestral Suite Estancia, the maximal use of a wide array of percussion instruments in the syncopated flamboyant malambo rhythm passed back and forward across the orchestra grew to an intensifying frenzy. After the unassuming work Percussive Dreams by the Brazilian composer Wellington Gomes, in Gershwin’s Cuban Overture (Rumba) the orchestra really started to swing, in a mounting surge of joyful music-making. The last piece in the programme Danzon n. 2 by the Mexican composer Arturo Marquez made popular by the Simon Bolivar orchestra, the Brazilian encores, Aquarela do Brasil by Barroso and the irresistible Tico-tico , all played without conductor, gave the players the opportunity to let their hair-down in a synchronised, balletic play-off between sections and instruments and embrace the audience in their riveting display. In the words of Bernstein, “The Joy of Music”. Photo Brenzoni