Monday, December 07, 2009

PBO: Gloria!

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra
Gloria! A Holiday Celebration
Bruce Lamott, conductor and director
Elizabeth Blumenstock, leader and violin
Philharmonia Chorale
Sat, Dec 5, 8:00 pm
First Congregational Church, Berkeley

Vivaldi: Magnificat In G Minor, Rv 610
Torelli: Concerto Grosso In G Minor, Op. 8, No. 6,"Christmas Concerto"
Vivaldi: Credo In Unum Deum, Rv 591
Vivaldi: Concerto In F Minor, "Winter," Rv 297, From The Four Seasons
Sammartini: Concerto Grosso In G Minor, Op. 5, No. 6, "Christmas Concerto"
Vivaldi: Gloria In D Major, Rv 589

Somehow I got talked into attending this concert, even though it started a mere hour after Marino Formenti's fiendish Messiaen recital. At least the 2 venues were a walkable distance apart. But after the Messiaen, it was difficult for anything else to make an impression on me. Fortunately the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra program was light & undemanding. It had a Christmas feel without resorting to usual seasonal repertoire such as the Corelli Christmas Concerto or excerpts from The Messiah or Weihnachtsoratorium. With a chorus of 24 & an orchestra of about 20, the balance between voices & instruments was perfect. In addition, the acoustic of the First Congregational Church is very live. It was especially easy to pick out the tenors.

The tempos were swift & bouncy, especially when orchestra leader Elizabeth Blumenstock led the instrumental works. She played even faster as soloist in the Vivaldi concerto. I just wish she had not been so shy & had stood in front of the orchestra instead of behind a music stand amidst the principal strings. The audience enjoyed her solo turn & gave her a standing ovation.

When Ms. Blumenstock was leading the instrumental numbers, she sat several inches above the rest of the orchestra, as if she were in a tall barber chair. I thought it looked a little odd. She seems to be a good leader, so why not just stand proudly? I like that they have a theorbo in the continuo, though I had a hard time convincing myself that I was hearing it.

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