April 6th, 2024

Tiempo Argentino. Horacio Lavandera: the revolution of expressiveness. The Argentine pianist delivered a brilliant concert…

The Argentine pianist gave a brilliant concert at the San Rafael Auditorium, part of an international tour that will conclude on May 10th at Carnegie Hall in New York.

April 6, 2024

By Mariano Suarez

Vladimir Lenin, the father of the Russian Revolution, admired Beethoven’s Sonata No. 23. He considered it “superhuman” and claimed he could listen to it every day. Yet, because of its seductive power, he rejected it: the urgency of the revolution did not allow for the distracting pursuit of pleasure. Argentine pianist Horacio Lavandera performed it last night at the San Rafael Auditorium in the Saavedra neighborhood of Buenos Aires, in a concert dedicated to the language of musical romanticism – in an expansive vision – to which Beethoven’s work strictly does not belong, though it anticipates it.

Lavandera presented in the Buenos Aires venue a possible – and in his Argentine way – reading of the aesthetic movement that dominated the 19th century. From its most “pure” expressions to its conversation with the evocative music of the Salta bandoneon player Dino Saluzzi, enveloped in an unmistakable territorial atmosphere, seemingly distant from European tradition but, in Lavandera’s vision – and probably in Saluzzi’s as well – capable of reconciliation even through contrast.

With a didactic sense, the pianist introduced the audience to each piece of the night with historical references. He began with Wolfgang Mozart’s twelve variations on the French song “Ah vous dirai-je, maman,” a accessible window into the roughness that the program later brought. Then, indeed, the focus shifted to the sonata. True to the romantic continuum between music and poetry, Lavandera quoted for the audience the literary motivation, in Shakespearean key, that inspired Beethoven in his composition.

Sonata No. 23 demands everything from the performer. It requires a unique bodily commitment and an absolute sense of planning in approaching each musical phrase (there is a masterclass available online by Argentine Daniel Baremboim to the Chinese pianist Lang Lang that synthesizes the value of the decisions that the sonata’s performer must make). Exhausted after this challenge, Beethoven’s piece prompted applause and called for an intermission to prepare for the second part of the program. Lavandera then seemed to take a radical turn and chose a selection of three pieces composed by Saluzzi, ranging from jazz to the folklore of northern Argentina (“La casa 13,” “Claveles,” “Donde nací”), which were released in 2015 on the album “Imágenes” published by the prestigious German label ECM. “Saluzzi is an admirer of the romantic movement, especially the German one,” explained the pianist on the occasion of that album. This reference helps to explain the musical course of the evening.

Then, with the interpretation of Schubert’s Moment Musicaux No. 3 in F minor and two movements from the Impromptus D. 899, Op. 90, the oral tradition of incorporating accents and musical resources took precedence over the written record of music.

“In the pieces Horacio Lavandera recorded in ‘Imágenes,’ I showed him an idea, and upon hearing his execution, my mind began to work” (…) “We approached it from a romantic point of view, that is to say less aggressive, with fewer notes and working with free spaces. A note that remains until it dissolves into the open space needed for sound to balance silence.” This reflection from the bandoneonist is part of the book “Saluzzi. A Life in Ten Days,” which gathers dialogue between the Salta musician and poet Javier Magistris and will be available in all bookstores across the country in a couple of weeks.

The connections of the evening multiplied. If Schubert has been called the classical musician of Romanticism, and Beethoven has been affirmed as the Romantic of classicism, while the play on words may be accepted in this case through the obvious reference to Beethoven in one of the Impromptus movements, it also invites misunderstanding. In Schubert – as Lavandera plays it – there is no longer possible recovery of the classical order.

The program continued with the series of variations on a theme in D minor, Op. 54, by Felix Mendelssohn, followed by a conclusion – also acceptable to be observed as a late outburst of the Romantic movement – in early 20th-century American music through six songs by George Gershwin.

The audience’s recognition justified encores – in the same key – with works by Art Tatum and Vladimir Horowitz, evoking a musical era in which, when it seemed everything had been said in piano approach, they pushed its transformation.

Horacio Lavandera live.

He will perform on April 12th in La Pampa, the 14th in Bahía Blanca, the 16th at Café Berlín in the Federal Capital (Buenos Aires), and will then conclude his tour in the United States.