Sunday, October 06, 2013

Philharmonia Baroque: Pergolesi in Naples

David Daniels
Friday night the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra presented an Italian-themed concert featuring Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, with countertenor David Daniels & soprano Carolyn Sampson. Because of the renovation of Herbst Theatre, the performance was held at SFJAZZ. Conductor Nicholas McGegan delivered an amusingly droll introduction & told the audience, "We're going to play old jazz."

The 1st half was very symmetrical, with Mr. Daniels & Ms. Sampson singing a set of 4 Handel duets & arias as the centerpiece piece between 2 instrumental works. Mr Daniels makes an even, somewhat dense, sound that is almost gritty. His singing was sustained in the languid “Dove sei” from Rodelinda. Ms. Sampson's aria was the flashier “Da tempeste” from Giulio Cesare. Her singing was clean & pretty, & I liked her warm & controlled vibrato. She stood close to Maestro McGegan & flirted with him in character during her final flourish. Mr. Daniels & Ms. Sampson listened to each other nicely in their 2 duets, & their singing was very close. The audience laughed when they imitated heaving lovers at the end of the “Caro/Bella” duet from Giulio Cesare. An efficient performance of the Stabat Mater took up the 2nd half. It was brisk & occasionally solemn but not lugubrious. Ms. Sampson & the orchestra created a hold-your-breath pianissimo in the verse describing the moment of Jesus's death.

Carolyn Sampson
Photo credit: Marco Borggreve

The orchestra consisted of 17 strings, plus theorbo & either harpsichord or organ. Maestro McGegan led with characteristically quick, bird-like gestures. Sometimes just his impish demeanor was enough to convey a phrase. The orchestra's articulation was precise, bouncy & pointed. The violins were not always in tune. Concertmaster Elizabeth Blumenstock was feisty in her 1st movement solos in the Durante concerto. Maestro McGegan described the piece as "slithery & chromatic." The orchestra & singers sounded dry in the SFJAZZ acoustic, & their sound seemed to dissipate immediately without reverberating. I could sometimes hear the musicians turning pages.

The audience was appreciative & quiet, & some gave the performers a standing ovation. Latecomers were seated during the 1st piece. Because of the layout of the space, everyone could watch them get to their seats. There was some sort of amplified thump during the Durante, & in the Stabat Mater we heard a plastic cup roll down some steps.

§ Pergolesi in Naples
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra
Nicholas McGegan, conductor
David Daniels, countertenor
Carolyn Sampson, soprano

Sinfonia from L’Olimpiade

Duet “Io t’abbraccio” from Rodelinda
     Ms. Sampson & Mr. Daniels
Aria “Dove sei” from Rodelinda
     Mr. Daniels
Aria “Da tempeste” from Giulio Cesare
     Ms. Sampson
Duet “Caro / Bella” from Giulio Cesare
     Ms. Sampson & Mr. Daniels

Concerto Grosso for Strings No. 2 in G Minor

Stabat Mater

Fri, October 4, 2013, 8:00pm
SFJAZZ Center, San Francisco

No comments: