One of the advantages of running the music program at the National Gallery of Art is that there is always an exhibition to structure a program around. Catalan artist Joan Miro is currently in the museum’s spotlight, and Sunday’s concert, this season’s finale, brought together a quartet of musicians under the auspices of the New York Opera Society for a concert of mostly Catalan music in his honor.
Padre Antonio Soler and Isaac Albeniz, that region’s big names, defined Catalan Baroque and Romantic idioms, and pianist Miguel Basegla opened the program with a booming no-holds-barred account of Soler’s Sonata in D-flat Major (making no attempt to replicate its harpsichord origins), and closed it with a well-crafted and balanced performance of the Albeniz “Zaragoza.” In between were a couple of pieces by Ricardo Llorca, who was in the audience, and music by Ernest Borras and Xavier Montsalvatge.
Llorca’s music was particularly interesting. His harmonic language blends a foundation in classical simplicity with unselfconscious digressions into astringent dissonances that please rather than surprise. His “El Combat del Somni,” a set of three songs, were beautifully sung by soprano Rosa Betancourt, and his “La Memoria de les Canelles” was played agilely enough by guitarist Giuliano Belotti but way overamplified (is any amplification needed in that hall?).
Baritone Gustavo Ahualli delivered four songs from Borras’s “Llibre d’Amic” with a big, smooth, resonant sound but not a lot of dramatic imagination, and Betancourt provided the evening’s best fun with a smashing and suggestive portrayal of a staggering, dancing drunk in Montsalvatge’s “Canto Negro.”
The gallery’s new season opens on Sept. 5 with the music of John Cage.
Reinthaler is a freelance writer.