* Notes *
Of Händel's 29 oratorios, Messiah is far and away the most performed, and is the composer's most famous work. Messiah has returned again to San Francisco Symphony for a couple of performances, conducted by Ragnar Bohlin, who is the new director of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. Bohlin made his debut conducting at Davies Hall yesterday. The chorus sounded lovely. The orchestra, on the other hand, did not quite have it together for the soprano recitative right after the "Pifa." The violins were slightly fast, or else the cello and organ were slow. The trumpet sounded especially fine in the bass air "The Trumpet Shall Sound."
The bass soloist, Patrick Carfizzi, was underpowered, he did sound nice when only accompanied by harpsichord. Some of his transitions were slightly muddy. Shawn Mathey, the tenor, lacked heft, and at times he was also difficult to hear. Mezzo-soprano Tove Dahlberg has a much brighter voice, with good resonance and depth. She did have a little too much vibrato for her higher notes in "O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion." The soprano, Camilla Tilling, had good control of both her vibrato and volume, and though sometimes strained, never sounded shrill. All the soloists had fine diction.
* Tattling *
The symphony audience was well-behaved, even for this very famous work that must have drawn people that do not normally go to Davies Hall. I did hear two watch alarms during "I Know that My Redeemer Liveth." However, many people did leave early. The middle part of the Center Terrace was completely full for the first half of the performance, and there were noticeably less people for the second half. A few people also left after the famous "Hallelujah" chorus, which also garnered the only applause during actual piece.
Camilla Tilling looked beautiful in a satin pearl grey dress with a ruched bodice. Tove Dahlberg is possibly the only performer I have ever seen carry off wearing a strapless gown. Her posture is good and her shoulders are pretty. It must have been cold though, for she put on a wrap for the second half.