The Hamburg Philharmonic visited Buenos Aires to perform two extraordinary concerts, presented by the Mozarteum Argentino. Considered an emblem of European academic music, this hundred musicians came to Argentina to present an exquisite repertoire of Austro-German music at the Teatro Colón. The program included the prelude to Tristan and Isolde, a series of musical poems by Richard Wagner, and Symphony No. 6 in A major by Anton Bruckner.
Founded on November 9, 1828, the Hamburg Philharmonic is one of the oldest groups in Europe, and for the last 188 years has performed thousands of concerts around the world. During each season, they present over 200 shows of opera and ballet, plus 30 orchestral concerts and international tours as they did this month. The legendary podium of this organism was occupied by great personalities of the music world, including Tchaikovsky, Strauss, Mahler, Prokofiev and Stravinsky. In the twentieth century, it was directed by musicians like Muck, Jochum, Keilberth, Albrecht and the Australian Simone Young. Since last year and until 2020, Kent Nagano is the Principal Conductor of the Hamburg Philharmonic, as well as the Hamburg State Opera. Born in California 65 years ago, Nagano is a Sansei (third generation Japanese-American) who studied sociology and music in various American universities and at the École Normale de Musique in Paris.
The evening at Teatro Colón began with the beautiful prelude to the opera Tristan and Isolde composed by Wagner between 1857 and 1859.
With a flawless performance from the first chord orchestra emphasized the chromatic melody games, tonal changes, and the most representative melodic ideas of opera. It also brought to mind the surrealist film Un Chien Andalou by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, which in the last century used excerpts from this opera, mixed with tango.
After that, they presented the series of five poems for a female voice (orchestrated later by Felix Mottl), entitled “Wesendonck-Lieder” by the same German composer. Their official publication was in 1862, three years prior to the premiere of Tristan and Isolde, although two of those five poems, which were clearly sketches and musical sketches of some themes, developed throughout the work. Each poem portraits life at different moments, an overblown way using metaphors and allegories that exceed the original lines. These verses were written by Mathilde Wesendonck, who was in love with Wagner. The problem was that Mathilde was married to Otto, patrons of the German composer.
For this reason, in order to preserve Mathilde’s good name, her authorship was not known until the early 1920s, when the four people involved had already died.
Mihoko Fujimara was the mezzosoprano responsible for interpreting all the poems together with a small orchestra. Her dismal vocal range was solid and strong in the bass tones, but lost energy and charm in the highest notes. The poems, although they differ from each other, have a slow tempo, with repeating melodies almost to the point of lethargy, combined with the characteristic Wagnerian harmonic suspension melodies, such as “The Angel”, “Sorrows”, “Dreams”, “Be still!”, and particularly “In the Greenhouse” which laid the foundations of Tristan and Isolde’s third act.
For the second part of the program and with the full orchestra on stage again, they played Symphony No. 6 in A major by the Viennese composer Anton Bruckner. The work consists of four movements approximately one hour. The first movement is the “Majestoso”, guided by the leading voice of violins, and strong sound of their strings. The second movement, “Adagio” is written as a sonata and presents the lamentation of the oboe. Despite its name, the “Scherzo” is slow and only in the “Finale” horns and metals explode to the tune of A Major. The baton of Nagano has a very particular style, his hands and seem to anticipate what will happen after a few bars accurately and, even in the most critical moments. With the same elegance, baton is responsible for turning the pages of his score as the work progresses, and with great sensitivity achieves a powerful sound both from the flutes and the tuba.
Despite the tedious melodic repetitions in times of stress and calm from beginning to end, the appearances of the clarinet, or eight basses with its final staccato, make clear reference to the Viennese music of the time when the Strauss family reached the top of the world with their waltzes. The presentation of this sixth symphony at that time was an absolute failure, both for the critics and the public. Something similar had happened to Beethoven a few decades before. Only with the premiere of his Symphony No. 7 in the city of Leipzig (1884), comes the success and public recognition that Bruckner was waiting for and which continues today.