Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

PBO plays Mozart, Beck, & Haydn

Kelley_R_J_c_Matt_Dine * Notes * 
Nicholas McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra opened the 2011-2012 season with Mozart, Beck, and Haydn. The concert started with Mozart's Symphony No. 38 in D major. The playing lilted, the brass seemed slightly rawer in style compared to the strings and woodwinds. The featured soloist of the program was R.J. Kelley (pictured left, photograph by Matt Dine), playing Mozart's Concerto pasticcio for Horn in E-flat major with the orchestra. The natural horn just seems an impossible instrument to play in tune, and one wonders what sort of personality is drawn to such a difficult vocation. Kelley made a good go of it, and sounded best in the second movement Romanza. The instrument can have a warm and mellow quality that is quite beautiful.

The second half of the performance gave us a cheerful rendition of Beck's overture from La mort d'Orphée. Haydn's Symphony No. 98 rounded off this delightful evening. The oboe sounded particularly nice, and the playing altogether was animated and genial.

* Tattling * 
Some latecomers seated in the back of the orchestra level held up the performance in between the two Mozart pieces. A cellular phone was heard during the last piece, again from this area.


MMDG's Dido and Aeneas

MMDG_Dido&Aeneas_08_Credit_BeatrizSchiller  * Notes * 
The Mark Morris Dance Group (pictured left, photograph by Beatriz Schiller) opened the new season at Cal Performances with Dido and Aeneas yesterday evening. The audience seemed completely rapt by the experience, and I have never attended a Baroque opera with so little fidgeting or noise. Morris fills all the music with choreography, so there is not a moment in which audience members feel comfortable speaking, especially since the work is only an hour long without an intermission. The dancing is unsentimental and not overly pretty. Limbs were thrown about at angles, and looked rather different on each of the 12 dancers. There were times when the choreography was much more like miming than dancing, and Morris is not shy of being crude. Humor was infused into many of the scenes, especially when dealing with witches or sailors. The dancers characterized their different roles clearly.

The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra started off less crisply than usual under Mark Morris himself, but did often sound lovely. There was a slight squeaky quality to the dance at the end of Scene 2. The chorus also sounded fine. Since all of the singing was from the pit, most of the soloists sounded a bit like they were singing from the bottom of a well. Soprano Yulia Van Doren (Belinda, First Witch) sang prettily, and soprano Céline Ricci (Second Woman, Second Witch) was distinct from her. Brian Thorsett sounded bright though not hefty as the Sailor. Philip Cutlip (Aeneas) sang with warmth and lightness. Stephanie Blythe gave a vivid performance as both Dido and the Sorceress. Her voice has both volume and gravity.

* Tattling * 
The audience members around me were almost completely silent and no electronic noise was noted.


PBO Summer Festivals Tour 2011

Pbo-deyoung * Notes * 
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra left San Francisco today to start a tour of summer festivals. The ensemble plays Händel's Orlando at the Ravinia Festival tomorrow, at Mostly Mozart on Saturday, and at Tanglewood next Tuesday. The semi-staged opera was performed by PBO in the Bay Area last year, with many of the same soloists.

PBO had a rehearsal in Berkeley yesterday, and the orchestra sounded bright and together under the direction of Maestro Nicholas McGegan. The cast shows a lot of promise. Wolf Matthias Friedrich (Zoroastro), Diana Moore (Medoro), and Dominique Labelle (Angelica) were consistent with their previous performances, and will undoubtedly do well. Yulia van Doren sang Dorinda very prettily. The Act I Scene 12 trio with van Doren, Moore, and Labelle was especially splendid. In the title role (written for Senesino), Clint van der Linde has his work cut out for him. Van der Linde sounded absolutely lovely in the Adagio part of Act II, Scene 11.


The Creation at PBO

Pbo3 * Notes * 
Nicholas McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra end the season with five performances of The Creation by Haydn. Last night's offering in Berkeley was gratifying and jubilant. McGegan kept the proceedings vivacious, and only a few moments were chaotic, most evident in the end of Part II. The dynamics throughout were distinct. The chorus had a translucent sound.

The three soloists were obviously talented. Baritone Philip Cutlip was easy to understand and could always be heard. His duet with soprano Dominique Labelle in Part III was playful and winsome. Labelle sang pleasantly, and was never shrill. Her sturdy voice was only lost briefly in the "The marv'lous work beholds amaz'd," which is sung with the chorus. Her trills in the first aria of Part II ("O mighty pens") were most impressive. The tenor, Thomas Cooley, sang with ease. His bright voice did not sounded pressed when singing high notes, and his diction was clear. One particularly appreciated his pianissimo in the recitative "And God created man."

* Tattling * 
The audience members in the first three rows seemed rather quiet, only intermittently giggling at the jolly text.


PBO's 2011-2012 Season

September 15-17 2011: Dido & Aeneas
September 22-25 2011: Mozart & Haydn
October 25-30 2011: Arias for Farinelli
November 18-22 2011: Marion Verbruggen & The Italian Baroque
December 2-6 2011: Bach's Mass in B minor
January 26-29 2012: Richard Egarr: Masters of the English Baroque
March 6-11 2012: Steven Isserlis: The Classical Cello
April 20-25 2012: Händel's Alexander's Feast

Philharmonia Baroque announced their next season today. Stephanie Blythe will be singing Dido in Dido and Aeneas this September, Mark Morris Dance Company performs. Vivica Genaux sings in the October performances of Vivaldi, Fasch, Telemann, and Rameau.

Official Site | 2011-2012 Season


David Daniels at PBO

_for_website_-_Daniels___Robert_Recker_licensed_to_Virgin_Classics * Notes * 
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra opened a run of performances featuring countertenor David Daniels last night in Berkeley. Nicholas McGegan first conducted Telemann's Concerto for Three Horns and Violin in D major. The orchestra bounced delightfully but despite their efforts, the horns had more than one painful moment. One imagines this instrument must be devilishly hard to play. The concertmaster and violin soloist, Carla Moore, sounded quite good in the second movement Grave. Daniels joined the orchestra for Vivaldi's Stabat Mater. He sang with warmth and sweetness. There was a bit of warbling but nothing terribly distracting. The quietness of "Quis est homo" was lovely and the strings sounded particularly vibrant in "Eja mater, fons amoris." After the intermission, Daniels returned to sing arias from Händel's Il triofo del Tempo e del Disinganno, Radamisto, and Agrippina. "Perfido, di a quell'empio tiranno" was strident and "Voi che udite il mio lamento" mournful. Daniels sang "Qual nave smarrita" from Act III of Radamisto as an encore. The concert ended with Telemann's Suite in F major, which was played with insouciance. The Die concertierenden Frösche Krähen was rather silly but certainly amusing.

* Tattling * 
The people in the center of the front balcony were silent for the first half, but the women in the middle of Row E spoke during David Daniel's first aria after the break. A watch alarm was heard at 9pm during this piece as well. The couple in E 211 and 212 also talked during the second half but responded appropriately when they noticed they were audible to other audience members.


Messiah at PBO

Nicholas-mcgegan-pbo * Notes * 
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's latest offering of Händel's Messiah was very jolly. Nicholas McGegan conducted the third of four concerts last Sunday in Berkeley in his usual chipper way. The orchestra was together and in tune, as was the chorus. The soloists included soprano Mary Wilson, countertenor Daniel Taylor, tenor John McVeigh, and bass Tyler Duncan. The overall impression was that of airy lightness, though all could be heard.

* Tattling * 
A woman in Row O made a request for me to switch from my aisle seat with my companion so that she could see the stage, because I am rather short. Naturally her companion inanely exclaimed that the piece was in English once the tenor started. A cellular phone rang during the aria "He was despised and rejected of men."


Le quattro stagioni at PBO

PBO_byRandiBeach * Notes * 
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's latest program features Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, and the first of five performances under Nicholas McGegan occurred last night at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. The first piece, Corelli's Concerto grosso Op. 6, No. 11 in B-flat major, was played jauntily but seemed a bit flustered. The Pergolesi that came next, Sinfonia in F Major, went more smoothly. The music shifted from elegant to cheerful with grace. Concertmaster Carla Moore sounded particularly determined.

Oddly, the Vivaldi concerti were divided by the intermission. On the whole the sound was bracing, yet jolly. The ensemble bolstered the violin soloist, Elizabeth Blumenstock, who played with great vigor. The violist seemed out of tune for the beginning of the Largo in La Primavera, and Blumenstock herself appeared to struggle with intonation in L'autunno's first Allegro. The beginning of L'inverno was played sul ponticello, and producing a humorous squeakiness, and providing a striking contrast with what followed. Zavateri's Concerto in D Major was verdant, and Durante's Concerto No. 5 in A Major quite vivid.

* Tattling * 
Our group of friends was made tardy by a certain latecomer to dinner beforehand. We did just make it in just as McGegan came on stage, who may have noted our appearance as we did have to ask someone to move from our seats. The person next to me in K 112 tapped her foot with the music, and I also heard someone's watch ticking distinctly during the Vivaldi in the first half. Neither of these was a problem in the second half as the people in question disappeared. There was some talking, especially from the man who moved from K 114 to J 112. My companion noted that a person wearing a salmon-colored shirt across the aisle fell asleep.


Lars Ulrik Mortensen conducts Bach

Mortensen-pbo * Notes *
Lars Ulrik Mortensen (pictured left with soprano Maria Keohane, photograph by Michael Strickland) is currently conducting Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in a program of Bach. Friday night's performance in San Francisco started with the Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C major, BWV 1066. Mortensen lead the orchestra from the harpsichord, and it was clear at once we were in for a lively evening. For the following Concerto for Harpsichord in D minor, BWV 1052, the harpsichord was rearranged such that Mortensen did not have his back to us. His playing was not perfectly clean, but this was more than made up for with his cheerful, engaged performance. The orchestra held together beautifully, and the playing was sprightly.

After intermission we heard Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten, known as the Wedding Cantata in English. Soprano Maria Keohane has a pure, yet rich sound. She employed a fine control of her voice, with neither too much vibrato nor tremolo. Her enunciation of the German may have not been completely comprehensible, but given that this is Baroque music, it was not particularly bothersome. The concert ended with an ebullient rendition of Concerto for Harpsichord in D major, BWV 1054.

* Tattling *
I was late meeting SFMike and Miss LCU, but did make it to the concert with Opernphrenologe before the music started. The audience was quiet and no electronic noise was noted.

Maria Keohane's outfit was charmingly absurd, it looked a bit like one ivory frothy ruffled dress had consumed a simple red evening gown.


Cal Performances Fall Free for All 2010

Postcard Front - Final Cal Performances opens the 2010-2011 season with an impressive array of free performances next Sunday, September 26th. Our beloved San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows Leah Crocetto, Sara Gartland, Brian Jagde, and Tamara Sanikidze are participating. Other performers include Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir, the Mark Morris Dance Group, Melody of China, the John Santos Sextet, the Pacific Mozart Ensemble, the Word for Word Theater Company, Teslim with Kaila Flexer and Gari Hegedus, the Diamano Couras West African Dance Company, the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra Ensemble, classical guitarist Marc Teicholz, singer/musician Melanie DeMore, and the UC Jazz Ensembles. The Opera Tattler is quite sad to miss this, but will be out of town.

Fall Free for All | Official Site


Händel's Orlando at PBO

William-towers * Notes * 
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra opened a run of Händel's Orlando last night at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. The opera was semi-staged, which made a rather silly opera perhaps even less convincing than it might have been. Production aside, the music was lovely. The orchestra sounded cohesive and jaunty under Nicholas McGegan. The strings were crisp and clean, and though the woodwinds were less than perfect in the first Sinfonia, they were otherwise very good. The horns fared pretty well in Act I, Scene 3's "Non fu già men forte Alcide," only a handful of errors were noted.

The cast was uniformly strong. Bass-baritone Wolf Matthias Friedrich (Zoroastro) did gasp slightly, but has a warm, rich tone. Susanne Rydén was very funny as Dorinda, and her crystalline voice was not without warmth. Sometimes I was not always sure she was hitting the middle of each note, especially at the beginning of Act I, when she chirped through "Quando spieghi i tuoi tormenti." The mezzo-soprano, Diana Moore, had impressive breath control, and her big aria in Act II as Medoro came off fantastically.

The fullness of Dominique Labelle's voice worked nicely for Angelica, she was never overwhelming and her vibrato was under control. One of the best moments of the opera was the trio at the end of Act I featured Labelle, Moore and Rydén. In the title-role, countertenor William Towers may have started off a bit thinly, but sang beautifully for the rest of the evening. His "Gia lo stringo, gia l'abbraccio" in Act III was wonderful.

* Tattling * 
Aside from some whispering in the first act, the audience members around me on the right side of the orchestra level were attentive and quiet. There was noticeable audience attrition at the second intermission, as the performance was 3.5 hours long.


Jordi Savall conducts PBO

Savall * Notes * 
Jordi Savall started his run of six performance with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in San Francisco last Friday. The program, entitled "The French Suite in Europe," began with the Suite du Ballet de Stockholm by Guillaume Dumanoir and Anonymous. The orchestra started off quite crisply and the concertmaster, Carla Moore, played boldly. The brass was clear, but the woodwinds squeaked, and someone was out of tune during the Presto (Tambourin). The oboes and bassoon sounded better in Lully's Suite from Alceste, and the piccolo was suitably harsh in Les Démons: 2ème Air. The trumpets were a bit hazy, but overall the piece had a pleasing stateliness followed by triumph at the end.

After the intermission Savall was the soloist in Telemann's Ouverture in D Major for Viola da gamba, strings, and continuo. The musicians of the Philharmonia played beautifully, and Savall was arresting, the viola da gamba sounded rich, passionate, and never cloying. The finale consisted of a vigorous performance of two suites from "Water Musick" by Händel, the second and third. With the exception of few stray sour notes from the trumpets in Alla Hornpipe, the orchestra sounded crystalline. The horns did particularly well.

* Tattling * 
There was only a tiny bit of talking from the couple in Row C Seats 8 and 10 of the orchestra, but just during the Suite du Ballet de Stockholm, when the first violin solo began. By chance, we were seated next to the friends who introduced us to PBO in the first place.

The encore, the contradanse from Ramaeu's Les Boréades, was wonderfully fun, as it involved audience participation. We clapped a certain rhythm, but only when cued by Savall, and "not too loud," as he requested.