Friday, February 08, 2013

Dutoit Leads Berlioz's Te Deum

Davies Hall, 02.07.2013 Davies Hall prior to performance of Poulenc's Stabat Mater by San Francisco Symphony led by Charles Dutoit.Thursday night I heard Charles Dutoit lead the San Francisco Symphony & Chorus in Poulenc's Stabat Mater & Berlioz's tectonic Te Deum, both pieces I had never heard before. The Stabat Mater is in a dozen short movements, many of them surprisingly breezy, even though the text is about grieving. The performance felt patchy, or perhaps it is the piece itself. The orchestra seemed independent of the chorus, & each section of the chorus sounded disparate, with the low male voices predominating. The cushy orchestration requires 2 harps. The trumpets & flutes often popped out, but I enjoyed the smooth clarinet sound. Maestro Dutoit led with unhurried tempos. Soprano Erin Wall was soloist for 3 of the movements. She had a steady, open sound & was very engaged in the music, though her voice did not always penetrate well. The audience was especially quiet when the chorus sang unaccompanied. A gentleman seated behind me repeatedly yelled "Bravo" for them during the bows.

SF Symphony Patrons, 02.07.2013 Patrons of the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Hall during intermission.Berlioz's Te Deum, requiring an organ, 3 choruses & a beefed-up wind section including 2 tubas, must have frightened its first audiences. I thoroughly enjoyed its theatricality, its massive, layered climaxes & its over-the-top Beethoven-like coda that has at least 5 endings. I don't know why I haven't heard this more often. The Pacific Boychoir, around 60 strong, were split into 2 groups on either side of the terrace. They have a prominent role which they performed confidently from memory. I liked their bold entrances. Tenor Paul Groves sang his one solo with a baritonal heft while still sounding flexible. The woodwind opening of Te ergo quaesumus that includes a bass clarinet was striking, & I liked Timothy Day's distinctive flute sound. Maestro Dutoit was an unruffled & modest presence. The audience applauded the 2 choruses especially, & some gave them a standing ovation. Organist Jonathan Dimmock took a bow alongside the soloists.

§ Dutoit Leads Berlioz's Te Deum
San Francisco Symphony
Charles Dutoit, conductor

San Francisco Symphony Chorus
Ragnar Bohlin, director

Poulenc: Stabat Mater
Erin Wall, soprano

Berlioz: Te Deum
Paul Groves, tenor
Pacific Boychoir, Kevin Fox, director

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 at 8:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall

2 comments:

Michael Strickland said...

The Saturday performance was one of the all-time favorite concerts of my life. I have a feeling all the forces really had it together by the third performance and the final movement of the Berlioz had me in tears. Almost went again today but the weather was too damned beautiful.

Axel Feldheim said...

Thanks for sharing your moving reaction to the Berlioz. I really enjoyed hearing if for the 1st time, & I came close to attending again on Sunday as well. Am still wondering why I haven't heard it more often.