Earlier I reported on a "new" New Year's Eve tradition - the Nutcracker at First Night; I was lucky enough the next day to join another local tradition - Boston Baroque's New Year's concert, which every year features an entertaining mix of vocal music, a few period obscurities, and one or two crowd-pleasers.
I'm obviously not the only person in Boston in on this particular secret (and last year's version was a particular hoot) - so it was no surprise that Sanders Theatre was sold out this January 1, which means that people were packed together literally cheek-by-jowl in that glorious gothic pile's rigid pews (I guess back in the day Harvard undergraduates were really undernourished). To be honest, things were so tight that sometimes it was hard to concentrate on the music; I guess you can't expect a musical organization to sell fewer tickets than it has "seats," but maybe it's time for a third showing of this particular favorite, to accommodate the crowds.
The rest of the concert was always diverting, but somewhat more variable. Conductor Martin Pearlman (below right) opened with Corelli's "Christmas Concerto," (Op. 6, No. 8), which he took, as is his wont these days, at a wide variety of tempi. And as usual, the orchestra's sense of ensemble began to fray a bit at the slowest speeds, but everything came together wonderfully when Pearlman sped up - first violinist Christina Day Martinson in particular had a field day fiddling in the glorious last movement.
Alas, somehow the ensemble seemed to grow a bit winded itself in the lengthy "Water Music" Suite in F Major, which concluded the concert - perhaps this Handel perennial (presented here with the famous "Alla hornpipe" seemingly borrowed from the D Major Suite), was, in its full glory, just too much of a good thing. And the brass section, which had sparkled on natural trumpet in Messiah, here sounded garbled and out-of-control on the even-more-challenging natural horn. Not that it's ever a chore listening to the "Water Music;" and all in all, the concert glittered with enough high points to convince me I'll have to lose some serious weight if I hope to squeeze into whatever space is left at this party next year!