Bizet, Sarasate, Falla, Chapí
The Cadaqués Orchestra picked up where it left off, with a complete triumph on the stage of Salzburg’s Great Festival House this evening. This was the same orchestra which successfully delivered Mendelssohn’s Third Symphony on Wednesday, with great drama and nuance directed from chief conductor Jaime Martín, once again joined by the spectacular Leticia Moreno for solo violin work. Unsadled with the dreadful music of Piazzolla that weighed down the first half of Wendesday’s concert, music by Georges Bizet and Pablo de Sarasate let the orchestra glisten.
Tonight’s concert opened with a few short selections from Bizet’s incidental music to The Girl from Arles, that enabled individual instrumental lines to stand out within an overall complete sound. The orchestra is still a tad small, but made up for the reduced size through enthusiasm. This approach especially came out in the concert’s second half, a performance of Bizet’s Symphony in C, which he wrote when he was only 17 and then suppressed (it had its premiere sixty years after his death after the score was rediscovered). Although a not-fully developed youthful work, the symphony showed great talent – the scope of a middle-period Mozart symphony, the internal humor of late Haydn, and the melodic inventiveness of early Beethoven or Schubert. Martín drew out the solo lines – especially highlighting the woodwinds, who demonstrated remarkable virtuosity they had hinted at on Wednesday – but without overshadowing the complete symphonic sound. (Why did Bizet suppress this work? With a few notable exceptions such as the opera Carmen and the incidental music from The Girl from Arles, as well as portions of the opera Pearl Fishers, his later music was mostly forgetable although he clearly had talent – there are theories that have to do with France’s complete lack of musical sophistication, but he could have rebelled against that in the way the others like Berlioz did). The orchestra clearly enjoyed itself, and the audience erupted into applause – even briefly the rare rhythmic clapping normally reserved for the pinacle of ensembles in this musically-literate country.
The first half of the concert also included the appearance by Moreno for two programmed works by Sarasate: Gypsy Airs (based on central European gypsy fiddle music) and the Carmen Fantasy (based on themes from Bizet’s opera). Moreno’s performance was sultry, dark but alluring. She demonstrated mastery over every tone, thick in the slower measures, quick-fingered in the wild ones. Tonight she did not have to struggle with the poor score she had on Wednesday, but instead took charge of the already-complex music and made it her own. The enraptured audience could not really contain itself, breaking into an inappropriate roaring applause right in the middle of her show, and refusing to give up cheering until conductor Martín turned around on the podium and pleaded with the audience to stop clapping. I’ve never seen this behavior in Salzburg before – and while I shared the audience’s opinion of her playing, I did not go along. When these two pieces ended, she added a work by Manuel de Falla, in duet with the harpist.
I think we could have kept calling her out, but it ended there. Likewise at the end of the concert the audience demanded more, but we only got one orchestral encore tonight (the same Chapí overture for La Revoltosa they did on Wednesday, although tonight with even more buzz in the air).