The powerful and delicate influence of Claudio Abbado is felt today with strength among the musicians of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. An intangible cultural heritage, but one that is perceived with the ear in the last orchestra formed by the Italian director. A way to make music. An identity. And all this can be seen this summer in the four major Spanish festivals where training takes place. Yesterday Friday they closed in Pomegranate, with Pablo Heras-Casado and then in the Fortnight of San Sebastian, Santander – where they inaugurate international Festival-, to finish in the Castell de Perelada.
Flexibility is one of its brands. So much so that during their tour they will perform with three different directors and perform a disparate repertoire. Open with Heras-Married, continue with Czech Jacub Hrusha and end with the Hispanic-Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel. In Granada they chose rhythm, avant-garde and telluric power with The Three-Cornered Hat, of Falla or the Pulcinella, Stravinski … "Until now, Falla was completely foreign to them," says Heras-Casado during a break from the rehearsal that took place on Thursday at the Auditorium dedicated to the Andalusian composer. Apart from the concert, the director presents a new record recorded with the Mahler Chamber and the work cited in the harmonia mundi label. "Precisely for that reason I wanted to do it with them. I know that they bring a radical vision. They dig deep and squeeze it without fear of risk. "
In a little more than twenty years of experience, the orchestra has settled and demonstrated that there is another way to manage formations and make music. They do not have a principal director. Important decisions are made by majority. They promote projects with soloists and batons that really choose by artistic affinity. They are amazingly conformable with what they really want to interpret and it is rare that they evade challenges. "The orchestra is free, it really does what it wants and that is heard," says Aglaja Thiesen, artistic director.
She is very clear about the nature of this training, which is somewhat atypical in its management and functioning, but very modern in its approach: "It is an orchestra for the 21st century," he says. "With the precepts that inculcated Abbado very clear: based on constant listening." It was part of the fundamental ideology of the Milanese teacher, who died in 2014. They believed in the orchestra as a social metaphor for collective dialogue, very aware of the chamber music method in which each one must sharpen his / her ear for what he / she does next and accompany him / her. "That has tried to be transmitted from the previous generation to the youngest," says Thiesen.
The repertoire chosen by the Mahler Chamber Orchestra for its tour of Spain reveals its incredible flexibility. In Granada, apart from Falla and Stravinski, they lead the Hungarian contemporary Peter Eötvös. To San Sebastian and Santander, on August 1, 2 and 3: Beethoven, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Dvorak, Kodály or Schumann and in Perelada, on the 10th, they will join Mahmoud's First Symphony with Dudamel.
Among the international network of its more or less 50 regular musicians -which can reach 70 with reinforcements, according to the repertoires-, there are 17 nationalities. Among them, two Spaniards who represent both the veterans and the new batch. This is the case of Júlia Gallego and Rodrigo Moro. The first is a flute, he is 46 years old and he plays with the orchestra since 2002. The second is a 28-year-old double bass and has just arrived in 2018. "Veterans do know how to transmit the spirit of what they do," says Rodrigo. And in it, Abbado's teaching overflows: "It was magical, with that way of drawing the music I had, with so little gravity and a lot of elegance," Gallego recalls.
Creating the orchestra was a biological necessity. Its precedent, still in operation, is the Young Gustav Mahler, where currently 30% of Spanish musicians of the new generation play. As the first members grew, they decided to continue. That is why Abbado proposed to them to form another one in homage to the composer that he loved so much but without the name of a young man.
In that last stage he knew how to take distance and fully enjoy music. He had abandoned the Berlin Philharmonic by illness in 2002 with an overwhelming Requiem of Verdi. Nothing else to recover of a cancer that had diagnosed him without much hope, he returned: he chose the Second Symphony of Mahler, known as Resurrection. He did it with the Orquesta de Lucerna, another of his last major projects, and he made a deep commitment to the evolution of the two Mahler formations created in the nineties or collaborating with Simón Bolívar. He was fully happy.
This is how, in the long term, this initiative of his has been consecrated: "And the good thing, I think, is that we have not lost our spontaneity or freshness," says Gallego. Something to which the new sap contributes, with musicians like Rodrigo Moro, who alternates his presence there with a position in the National Orchestra of Spain. The youngest loves to hear the stories of Abbado. Pay attention, shut up and then execute.
Something that pleases Heras-Casado too. The director uses all that nonconformist potential that the orchestra says: "When you learn and master a vocabulary as broad as yours, you are not afraid of anything," he says. "I enjoy this passion that they put to go further. They do not give me a single complacent note. They flee from any comfort or something that resembles the commonplace, "he says. "This is how I wanted to present Falla: with all that impudence and radically modern."
But it will not be the only thing they interpret. In Granada, apart from Falla and Stravinski, they lead the Hungarian contemporary Peter Eötvös. To San Sebastián and Santander, the one, two and three of August: Beethoven, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Dvorak, Kodály or Schumann and Perelada, on the 10th, will join Dudamel Mahler.