CLASSICAL MUSIC: Buenos Aires Philharmonic; Barbican Centre, London

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The Independent Culture
Most visiting orchestras nowadays pursue common goals of technical brilliance, executive discipline and a homogeneous tonal blend. They often sound rather similar, too, whereas the Buenos Aires Philharmonic - whose Thursday-night Barbican concert under Garcia Navarro was part of a 50th- anniversary European tour - paraded prime colours and a decidedly Latin- style volatility. The orchestra has played for some fairly distinguished guest conductors (Furtwangler and Karajan among them) and Navarro's own interpretations are full of character. True, the opening of Brahms's First Piano Concerto really needs a weightier sonority than the Argentines provided and some instrumental "chord work" was less than incisive, but the will was certainly there, and so was the enthusiasm.

The pianist in the Brahms was Argentine-born Bruno Leonardo Gelber, an exceptionally fine player who once recorded the work (for EMI) to great acclaim. His first entry was bright and confident, his trills properly prominent, his octave-work later on extraordinarily powerful. Although he and the orchestra weren't always in perfect accord, things improved as the piece progressed: this was Brahms very much from the heart - candid, highly demonstrative and conceived on a grand scale.

The second half inhabited sunnier climes, with Turina, Falla, Ginastera and a winsome Astor Piazzolla encore. Here, the music seemed better suited to the Philharmonic's bright, slightly acid tone (rather like French orchestras from the Fifties and Sixties). The Danzas fantasticas opened to a bold if fitfully unkempt "Exaltacion", hot and shimmering but texturally loose, whereas the "Orgia" finale was tough-grained and spirited. As to The Three- cornered Hat, Navarro whisked us past "The Neighbours", made considerable drama out of "The Miller's Dance" and ended with a rowdy finale - fast again, and notably exciting. The official programme climaxed to Ginastera's propulsive Estancia Suite: the pace was fast, the temperature sky-high, the overall effect exhilarating. It didn't take much prompting for Navarro to return for his first encore - a smoochy, rather reflective Piazzolla tango, complete with wistful bandoneon. Suddenly, the Philharmonic strings sounded as if they were playing for a popular balladeer, but the effect was entrancing and the audience loved it. It would not have been right to end on a melancholy note, though, so Navarro treated us to a second encore - the "Dance" from Falla's La Vida breve, sunny music, vibrantly played and a memorable last souvenir of a most enjoyable occasion

Robert Cowan

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