Thursday, May 3, 2007

Stars are born

A few more musical notes from my long blogging hiatus (don't worry, the catch-up comments on theater are coming soon!) . . .

Handel and Haydn's reading of The Seasons was generally as deeply satisfying as expected - even if at one point Roger Norrington, who works sans score or even podium, suddenly had to call a halt to the proceedings and get soloist and orchestra back in synch. Despite this gaffe, Norrington pretty much cemented the impression he gave at his earlier H&H concert this year - that his command of Haydn's idiom is nearly definitive. Alas, the playing this time out was perhaps not quite as spirited as at Norrington's first appearance, but the conductor drew a greater sense of depth and maturity from the orchestra, particularly in the closing, soul-searching scenes of winter. The other big news was the performance of Austrian baritone Günther Groissböck (in his American debut). Mr. Groissböck (at left) boasts a voice with the kind of size and burnished, resonant color on which major careers are made, and his phrasing proved sensitive and intellectually penetrating. It doesn't hurt that he has blonde matinee-idol looks, either. We'll be hearing more from Mr. Groissböck (at least I hope so).

Another star-to-be flickered briefly in the local firmament at Longwood Symphony's April 14 concert to benefit the Shriners Burn Hospital (all of the programs of Longwood Symphony, which is composed of local medical professionals, are benefits for medically underserved populations). Said star was the young Augustin Hadelich (at left), who is himself the survivor of a terrible fire, which almost cost him his life. This brought an added level of poignance to the concert, but it's clear that Mr. Hadelich doesn't need his medical history (or his sweet stage presence) to ensure his celebrity. He is, in short, a talent perhaps on the order of Joshua Bell, with a light but daring touch that sometimes pushed thrillingly close to dissonance. Hadelich made a convincing case for Glazunov's rarely-heard Violin Concerto, but it was his encore, of a Bach sonata, that was most spellbinding. But you don't have to take my word for it; you can hear audio clips on Mr. Hadelich's website here; he also occasionally blogs.

The Longwood Symphony, under the baton of Jonathan McPhee (above,who always brings a propulsive intelligence to the playing at Boston Ballet), elsewhere proved itself a worthy competitor to Benjamin Zander's Boston Philharmonic. The horns were occasionally a little rough, but the strings and woodwinds were often bravura, particularly in McPhee's commanding account of Mozart's Haffner Symphony, which opened the concert. After the Glazunov, McPhee programmed another rarity - Norman Dello Joio's "Seraphic Dialogues," a suite drawn from the composer's opera "The Triumph of Saint Joan." Alas, neither the orchestra nor Mr. McPhee could quite do for Dello Joio what Hadelich did for Glazunov: "Seraphic Dialogues" was attractive, and sometimes intriguing, but also never quite gripping in its heroicism. Still, one hopes this doesn't dissuade Longwood and McPhee from continuing their adventurous programming.

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