Rosa Antonelli, an excellent Argentinean pianist, presented a recital of mostly Argentine and Spanish composers at Carnegie Hall (Stern Auditorium), a concert benefiting Action Against Hunger. Ms. Antonelli, according to the bio in the printed program, “is enjoying an active and varied career.” She has made extensive tours of Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin and North America. Hailed as a leading exponent of Latin American composers, performing works by such masters as Piazzolla, Ugarte, Gineo, Guestavino–among others–to audiences all over the world.
The concert opened with Floro Ugarte (1884-1975): his Two Preludes from “Suite de Mi Terra” (Suite of My Land). Ugarte, born in Buenos Aires, studied in Paris with Albert Lavignac and later became one of the principal organizers and conductors of the Colon Theater at the National Society of Music and the Superior School of Fine Arts at the University of La Plata. His Suite, composed in 1923, was inspired by the poems of the Argentine writer Estanislao del Campo and was originally written for orchestra. This suite consists of three parts: the first, in Animato tempo, captures the motion of weeping willow trees and their shadows, depicting a scene of melancholy contentment. The second part, in Lento Tempo, describes with dramatic intensity the approaching darkness as night begins to fall. (In 1934, Ugarte wrote a second series of “de Mi Terra” for orchestra.
Next came Four Tangos by Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992): Rio Sena; Sentido nico; Milonga del Angel; Chao, Paris. Piazzolla’s music has become increasingly ubiquitous and popular–almost a case of familiarity breeding contempt. He studied in New York City with Bela Wilde, and then–upon his return to Argentina in 1940–with Alberto Ginastera and Nadia Boulanger in Paris. (After intermission, two more Piazzolla Tangos, written in 1963, were heard. Ms. Antonelli’s performance at this concert was the World Premiere of the original piano version.)
Another Argentinean, Carlos Guastavino (1912-2000), followed the first four Piazzolla Tangos with Two Preludes: “El Patio” and “El Sauce from La Siesta.” “La Siesta” is a compilation of three Preludes, each depicting a different scene. The description in “El Patio” evokes the memory of J. Aguirre and depicts the traditional Argentinean weeping trees with soft flowing leaves whispering in the wind. The first half of the program ended with two works by Enrique Granados (1867-1916): his Epilogo from “Escenas Romanticas” and Allegro de Concierto.
After intermission, we heard two early compositions by Isaac Albeniz (1860-1907): Grenada from his “Suite Espanola”, Op. 47; and “L’Automne Waltz”, Op. 170. Ms. Antonelli played all these compositions ‘con amore’. She is a dyed-in-the-wool Romantic Lyricist. Her always aurally beautiful and caressing pianism uses a lot of color via the sustaining pedal; she molds phrases with enormous flexibility, and there was never a hint of harsh, ugly or astringent glint to her lush singing tone. My only quibble was that her deeply poetic interpretations were sometimes a mite too soft-grained and unassertive when I might have preferred to hear more brilliance and extroverted rhythmic thrust. The Granados “Allegro di Concierto” is often played with more virtuoso thrust, and the popular Tres Danzas Argentinas of Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983)– the third Danza del Gaucho Matrero, especially–could have been rendered with more stampeding clarity (as it usually is). On the other hand, Ms. Antonelli’s inward poetry forced me to rehear, and revalue, Piazzolla’s Tangos, which she infused with an eloquence and inner communication that, in truth, has sometimes eluded me.
Postludes to a memorably well-played evening, Ms. Antonelli’s flowing, songful rendition of the early Chopin Nocturne in C-sharp Minor, Op. Posth. was an ideally fitting encore.
-Harris Goldsmith for New York Concert Review; New York, NY