Friday, December 19, 2008

Berkeley Symphony

Berkeley Symphony
Joana Carneiro, conductor

Thursday, December 18, 2008, 8 PM
UC Berkeley Zellerbach Hall

Magnus Lindberg, Chorale
John Adams, Shaker Loops
Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony No. 5

It was a treat to attend this concert at the invitation of a friend, especially since I don't think I've heard the Berkeley Symphony before. They sound good & have many enthusiastic players. It was nice to sit in a full house with such a supportive audience. It felt like an event.

Before starting, guest conductor Joana Carneiro spoke about the program, summarizing it as a celebration of masterpieces by great composers. She explained that the Lindberg is based on the Bach chorale Es ist genug. To remind us what this sounds like, she prefaced the performance with a brass quartet playing the chorale straight.

Carneiro does a lot of conducting. She seems to mark every beat & to cue everything. Even for something as square as the chorale, she flapped her arms vigorously. It reminded me of those slow-motion movies of cranes taking to the air.

The Lindberg piece gives us fragments of the chorale surrounded by unmoored harmonies. It was like looking at a fuzzy, constantly shifting landscape. Then suddenly at the very end it clicks into bright, clear focus. Along the way we get some pleasing orchestral colors.

The ensemble was tight for the entire program, especially for the tense & jittery Adams. I can imagine that it is difficult to keep this piece together, & the orchestra looked very proud of its effort at the end. John Adams himself joined them onstage for bows & received a bouquet of big flowers.

The Beethoven came off cleanly, again with precise ensemble, even in those passages where short phrases are passed quickly around the woodwinds. Carneiro took it at a deliberate pace. But of course those Beethoven codas are impossible to resist. The audience gave the symphony a rousing standing ovation at the end. Carneiro got her own bouquet of flowers as well.

This concert was also an audition for Carneiro as the successor to Kent Nagano. She has an eager stage presence. I got the feeling that she was attempting to take charge of as many things as possible. She moves around a lot & has a distinctive way of throwing her arms down, as if to flick water off them. Sometimes she stomps her feet in emphasis. She's certainly something to see in action, cute & a little flirtacious as she dances around the podium. I haven't heard any of the other candidates, but Carneiro would not be a boring pick.

P.S. In the 1st movement of the Beethoven, the bassoon, instead of horns, played the bridge in the recapitulation. Is this an "authentic" reading?


Immanuel Gilen said...

The program notes did mention that the score used for these performances was a relatively new, yet supposedly more "authentic" edition of Beethoven 5.

Axel Feldheim said...

Thanks. I guess I should read the program notes every now & then. This new Bärenreiter edition is the same one used by Zinman in his recording with the Tonhalle Orchestra. It's also where gets his fast tempos.

Anonymous said...

Joana Carneiro was selected to succeed Kent Nagano as Music Director of Berkeley Symphony!

Article in SF Chronicle:

Axel Feldheim said...

Carneiro was the only applicant for the post I happened to hear, so I can't comment on the choice, but at least I can say I heard her debut! I wonder if the audiences got any input into the decision.

Kevin Shuck said...

Hi Axel, thanks for your comments. In regards to your question about audience input, there was in fact a public survey on the Berkeley Symphony website for audience members to offer input. Ticket-buyers were also emailed immediately following the concert with a direct link to this survey.

Kevin Shuck
Director of Communications
Berkeley Symphony

Axel Feldheim said...

Thanks for that info about the selection process, Kevin! That was an unusually open process.