Esa-Pekka Salonen & the Philharmonia Orchestra just completed a brief residency at Cal Performances. Saturday night I heard their concert version of Wozzeck. I was impressed by its clarity & vividness. The singers had their roles memorized & were all completely in character. They all wore black, though small variations in their dress reflected their parts. It was like watching an opera without the sets.
Baritone Johan Reuter was reliably strong & clear as Wozzeck & became convincingly desperate as the story progressed. Soprano Angela Denoke's voice is athletic & steely, & her Marie was emotional, angry, & anguished. I really enjoyed tenor Peter Hoare's scene-stealing acting as the Captain, annoying yet somehow beguiling. He makes a bell-like sound. Bass Tijl Faveyts as the Doctor seemed to have problems making a big sound this evening, though his physical performance was full of animated, angular gestures. He sometimes stood on his toes. Tenor Joshua Ellicott as Andres had a lyrical sound that was distinct from the rest of the cast, & he squeezed out some very high notes in the tavern scene. Mezzo Anna Burford as Margret had an unusual but captivating voice. I was never sure what kind of sound she would make next. Her low notes were cavernous, yet she was focused & almost reedy higher up. Tenor Harry Nicoll made a precise, ethereal sound as the Idiot. Tenor Hubert Francis's Drum Major was suave & sturdy.
Meastro Salonen kept the music in constant fluid motion. He moves his hands gracefully & beat time clearly throughout. His left hand mostly mirrored his right. The orchestra played cleanly, & each of its sections sounded distinct. The interlude after Wozzeck's death was beautiful & flowing. A lot of personnel were involved. There was a large orchestra & a good sized chorus, & we heard off-stage & on-stage bands. About 20 members of the Piedmont Children's Choir filed onstage for the final scene, & soloist Zachary Mamis, standing right next to the conductor, nailed his "Hop, hop!"
The performance was intermissionless, & the audience applauded lightly in the pauses between acts, during which Maestro Salonen rested in a chair onstage. A cell phone went off in the row behind me during a quiet passage, but the audience was otherwise quiet & attentive & gave the performers extended applause & a partial standing ovation.
§ Wozzek, Alban Berg
Esa-Pekka Salonen, Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor
Aidan Oliver, Assistant Conductor
Johan Reuter, Wozzeck
Angela Denoke, Marie
Hubert Francis, Drum Major
Joshua Ellicott, Andres
Peter Hoare, Captain
Tijl Faveyts, Doctor
Henry Waddington, First Apprentice
Eddie Wade, Second Apprentice
Harry Nicoll, Idiot
Anna Burford, Margret
Zachary Mamis, Marie's Child
UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus
Marika Kuzma, Director
Members of the Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir
Robert Geary, Artistic Director
Sue Bohlin, Principal Accompanist & Associate Conductor
Members of the UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra
David Milnes, Director
Saturday, November 10, 2012, 7pm