Sunday, April 27, 2008

All-Haydn Program at SF Symphony

Friday April 25, 2008 at 8:00

Bernard Labadie, conductor
Christine Brandes, soprano
Kelley O’Connor, mezzo-soprano
John Tessier, tenor
Nathan Berg, bass-baritone
San Francisco Symphony Chorus

Haydn Te Deum for the Empress Maria Therese
Haydn Symphony No. 100, Military
Haydn Mass in Time of War

A great program for those of us who feel like we don't know Haydn as well as we should. I just discovered that I don't own a single Haydn CD. All the pieces on this program were written by Haydn in hs 60s, yet they all sound happy & fresh. There were clumps of empty seats in the hall, so I guess either Haydn or Labadie are not big draws.

Labadie had a full-sized chorus but cut the orchestra down by about half for the entire program, so the balances definitely favored the voices. The Te Deum was a grand way to start, but the performance sounded a bit fuzzy around the edges to me.

The Military Symphony was the most satisfying interpretation of the evening for me. There was impressively fleet playing by the winds, & it was fun to hear the Turkish march appear in the slow movement. Labadie is very busy on the podium, giving lots of phrasing cues & even hopping up & down on occassion.

The Mass is dominated by the chorus. The soloists usually just interject short statements here & there. The only thing resembling an aria was the Qui tollis for the bass, accompanied by Grebanier doing a beautiful job with the high obligato part. I felt like I didn't get to hear enough singing by the soloists, though I liked the sound of the bass Nathan Berg (sporting a pony-tail) & the deep-voiced Kelley O'Connor.

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