The ideas of “Classic” and "Classicism", generally associated with a specific style, can be also found in different periods of the History of Music. The last concert of the Symphonic Series of this season celebrated at the Auditorio Nacional was entitled “External travels, emotional travels”. Nonetheless, it could be also understood as a travel to three different types of Classicism: that of Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Ginastera.

Diego Matheuz © Marco Caselli Nirmal
Diego Matheuz
© Marco Caselli Nirmal

On this occasion, the Orquesta Nacional de España (ONE) was conducted by Diego Matheuz, one of the most brilliant exponents of the Venezuelan National Network of Youth and Children's Orchestras of Venezuela, commonly known as “El Sistema”. Mr Matheuz, 30, who has shown a special interest in opera, was appointed as tenured conductor of La Fenice in 2012 and is acknowledged as one of the most outstanding conductors of his generation. During the entire concert – his debut in Madrid– Mr Matheuz showed an energetic although restrained gesture; one that is always precise and vigorous but that never exhibits ostentation or excess and, for all these reasons, can be classified as “classical”.

The recital started with Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante for violin and viola, performed by Krysztof Wisniewski (violin) and Cristina Pozas (viola) as well as a reduced version of the ONE. The soloists are, in fact, members of the orchestra, showing great complicity between them, especially at the cadenzas. The sound was perfectly balanced, while the tuning was clear, not to mention the carefully studied colour of the French horns, hunting horns in the first and third movements, smooth as velvet in the second one. The first entrance of the soloists was quite astounding, as it was much slower than one could expect, and irregularities could only be found in the last movement, when Wisniewski and Pozas seemed to have little disagreements in their respective entrances.

After Mozart’s Sinfonia, the paths of classicism took us to the Americas. A selection of dances from the ballet Estancia was placed between two pinnacles of classical repertoire. However, Ginastera’s work, undoubtedly the highlight of the concert, revealed itself as an indispensable reference in the history of music in the 20th century. It was clear that Matheuz felt very comfortable conducting this composition that he seems to be familiar with, but we can also affirm that the ONE was at its best playing Ginastera.

This vibrant score is inspired by José Hernández’s narrative poem Martín Fierro, which is considered as a symbol of the Argentinian national identity. Stravinsky, Copland, the Argentinian folklore; there are multiple influences in this work. The first dance, entitled “Los trabajadores agrícolas” (The Farm Labourers), is a fierce, rhythmic score that recalls at some moments the “machinist” trends of the Russian futurism (i. e. Mosolov). The entire orchestra engaged in a perfect performance, although a more “savage” sound would have been desirable for the violins. The second movement, “Danza del trigo” (Wheat dance) is a calmer, more lyrical and even sensual interlude with its orchestration and harmonies clearly inspired by Debussy. After “Los peones de hacienda” (The Cattlement), the orchestra played “Danza final (malambo)”. This is, once more, a frenetic oeuvre that evocates the competitive dance of the gauchos. The speed increases progressively, and leads to an obsessive and repetitive motive that is surprisingly similar to that of the last movement of Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. In conclusion, the brilliant Estancia was the unexpected star of the concert, both for the quality of the music, and for the quality of the performance. 

After the interval, the second half of the concert was entirely devoted to Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no. 4 in F minor. I have to recognize that this is one of my least favorite works by the Russian composer. But, at the same time, it was also one of the weakest points of the concert. There was nothing particularly wrong with the performance: the tempi, the balance, the tuning, the dynamics… everything was correct. However, when listening to it, one could perceive a lack of continuity, an overemphasis on sectioning the very complex architecture of this work. This sensation disappeared during the last movement, a triumphant finale that deserved a warm recognition of the public.