Well then! Our first performance of the 2012 Christmas Concerts was a grand success! I realize that I’ve been promising surprisingly powerful performances of the Britten St. Nicolas on the blog, and I can happily report that even I (who was prepared to be moved by the experience) was surprised by the magnitude of the work. The element I hadn’t entirely anticipated was what the Funfgeldian stamp on the piece would bring, exactly. My admiration for Greg is well-recorded, and this performance affirmed several qualities that I’ve always seen in Greg’s musical leadership: musical sophistication, interpretative depth, an abiding and constant spirituality, and last, but certainly not least, an infectious sense of excitement and ardor for the music. With tremendous energy, Greg dug extremely deep, impelling the musicians under his charge to do the same, and the result was powerfully affecting. He reminded the singers during a post-warmup pep talk that we are fortunate to work with such committed and talented colleagues among the soloists, orchestra, and our collaborating choir, the Bel Canto Children’s Chorus. None of us could achieve the heights of tonight’s performance, though, without his inspired leadership. A tip of the hat to the Maestro!
Several moments stand out – the beautiful oboe d’amore work of Nobuo Kitagawa, who shifted into the first oboe chair for Mary Watt, who had some family health concerns (and to whom we offer our best wishes). Amy Miller, our newest oboe player, was able to join us for these performances, and, like Nobuo, played beautifully. In the Britten, our piano dream team of Tom Goeman and Eric Plutz were fierce (and fiercely sensitive) at the keyboard. During the movement of St. Nicolas that deals with an imprisoned Nicolas, the piano part is beyond treacherous, and I watched the two playing in perfect synch, with scores of off-the-beat entrances. Their colleagues in the string section added far more than able support, and Loretta O’Sullivan ended the movement with a stirring and elegant solo (Oh, how I’d love to hear her play the Britten cello suites). Liz Field’s violin solo at the beginning of the Britten was beautiful executed. Chris Hanning and Joe Ganzelli played Britten’s demanding percussion parts with courage and conviction. The children of the Bel Canto chorus were absolutely magnificent in the rear gallery for the Britten, and on the Suscepit Israel of the Bach. Their soloists were charming and musical. Ben Butterfield was absolutely masterful and fearless of his portrayal of St. Nicholas (and fierce in the Deposuit of the Magnificat). Our quartet of soloists all acquitted themselves beautifully. Finally, I was so proud of my colleagues in The Choir for offering so much of themselves in tonight’s performance.
Those attending tomorrow’s performance are in for more than a treat – and the concert will be recorded by our friends at WWFM for broadcast at a later date (we’ll keep you informed for when you should listen). Until tomorrow!