jueves, mayo 12, 2016

Complicated transition at the Blue Whale ends with successful concert


            Changes of Government can be complicated for cultural institutions even within the same party, but much more so when a different political line takes over. Especially when certain decisions are arbitrary and feel wrong. Such is the case of the Centro Cultural Kirchner; as readers may remember, it was inaugurated last year half-baked, when a good deal of the wholesale transformation of the historic building wasn´t completed.

 When President Mauricio Macri took over he had a problem: last year the control of the CCK was divided between the Ministry of Planning (De Vido) and the Ministry of Culture (Parodi).  Although the justification of this strange coupling was that the partnership was due to the complex works going on in parallel to the abundant cultural programming, it made for difficult logistics and a degree of chaos.

Macri did two things: he eliminated the Ministry of Planning and created the Federal System of Media and Public Contents (Sistema Federal de Medios y Contenidos Públicos). He put Hernán Lombardi (ex Culture Minister of Buenos Aires City) in charge of it. And here´s the moot point: the logical thing was to assign the CCK to the new Culture Minister, Pablo Avelluto, but no, it went to Lombardi. And so the latter (who also will supervise Tecnópolis and Public Radio-TV) formed a team to reorganize the Cultural Center.

There were two main factors: although it was obvious that the CCK had too many people, the touchy matter of layoffs and hiring new personnel was untidy and there are still conflicts; and from January to late April an ample team tried to finish several pending lines of architectural work, and to obtain the official seal of having terminated the big endeavour of restoration. In particular, there were intensive acoustics tests to ameliorate the Blue Whale (and other halls); the National Symphony collaborated at its new home and there were many rehearsals with and without an audience to allow the specialists to decide the improvements.

Gustavo Mozzi, who had led the Usina del Arte in 2014-5 with good results, is now the Director of the CCK, but he isn´t mentioned as such in the hand programme. Instead, his title is National Director of Federal Expressions (Director Nacional de Expresiones Federales)… Isn´t it enough to be at the head of the CCK?

There was a promise to announce the reopening and programming of the CCK starting in May; it stands to reason that the information had to be available at least a week before, but it wasn´t so. By happenstance I was told on April 26 about the National Symphony´s "rentrée" at the CCK on May 4th by one of the two concertinos, Luis Roggero. I tried to confirm it during the following days communicating with the CCK, but to no avail: they knew nothing or weren´t allowed to speak.

However, there was a strange press conference by Avelluto on May 2, midday: the NS works at the CCK but depends on the Culture Ministry, and so the Minister had to mention this first concert at that venue, along with plenty of other information about the nine organisms within the scope of his portfolio. But when I insisted on hard information about tickets for the general audience and for reviewers, he admitted that connexions of the ministry with the CCK were still fuzzy. Only on the afternoon of May 3 I got a firm contact with the CCK and the concert was announced.

So with minimal advance we went to the NS´ concert, of course with less people than usual (generally the house was full last year). Two policies must be reversed: no age restrictions and all events are free.

Last year the much appreciated American conductor Stefan Lano gave a concert with the OSN but I couldn´t attend; later there was a row because he complained he wasn´t paid (it happened  many times throughout the history of the NS, for the Culture Ministry has rarely been well administered). Apparently the matter was finally solved for he was back; it is to be hoped that the current Government will put an end to such disgraceful practices.

Lano often programmes well, and this was certainly true on May 4. He started with a homage to Alberto Ginastera´s centenary of his birth: the admirable "Concertante Variations".  Although Diemecke did them recently with the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, I don´t complain for this is the composer at his best: an equanimous balance between refined technique and inspired ideas. The soloists had a field day and showed again that the NS is a first-rate organism worthy of full support, and Lano reaffirmed his professional ability.

Béla Bartók wrote his only important choral work in 1930: the Secular Cantata subtitled "The enchanted stags" written for double choir, tenor, baritone and orchestra, on an old Romanian ballad adapted by the composer. The three parts are called "The nine children", "Meeting with the father" and "Thus was the legend"; they last 20 minutes. It´s about hunters transformed into stags; their father (baritone) searches for them and one of the stags (tenor) tells him: "Father, don´t shoot, now we are stags and will remain so". No text was available for the audience!

Strong, dense music, it´s difficult and rarely done. Although the acoustics for the orchestra are better now, the chorus is placed on a First Floor level and the sound that came out was granulous and unpleasant, although the Coro Polifónico Nacional under Darío Marchese sang too loud. Enrique Folger (tenor) also forced his tone; Leonardo Estévez (baritone) was more controlled.

But the splendid interpretation of Richard Strauss´ masterful "Thus spoke Zarathustra" (on Nietzsche) was the crown of the night. The enormous tone poem in nine joined movements was admirably understood and communicated by the conductor and the orchestra (Xavier Inchausti was the impeccable concertino). The sustained inspiration left us breathless. A great start for the season.

For Buenos Aires Herald

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