Wednesday, July 30, 2014

ABS: Handel's L'Allegro

This month I attended the sold-out performance of Handel's L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato during the American Bach Soloists' Summer Academy. ABS featured 9 young soloists, each assigned to one of the libretto's personified temperments. This resulted in a somewhat theatrical moment when, after 2 hours, 3 entirely new singers walked on stage for part 3. Conductor Jeffrey Thomas's tempos were measured & unhurried, & the piece moved along at the recreational pace of a baseball game.

Hailey Fuqua sang the Il Penseroso soprano arias with big, hall-filling high notes & a liquid sound. In the extended virtuoso aria "Sweet bird" she was accompanied by an impressive Baroque flute player who had great dynamic control & a clean, steady sound with no breathiness. Though the number is clearly designed for the performers to show off their improvisatory skills, both soloists took the long repeat with almost no variation. ABS audiences know better than to interrupt a long work with applause, but a murmur of approval followed the aria.

Singing the L'Allegro soprano arias, Anna Gorbachyova displayed a dark, viscous sound. Tenor Michael Jankosky's voice was open & his articulation clear. Alto Agnes Vojtko & bass Benjamin Kazez both had clean, even voices. Different parts of tenor Jason Rylander's voice seemed to have different levels of openness. At the opening of the Il Moderato section, bass David Rugger made a startlingly big sound. He was an expressive & varied singer & communicated the text well. Soprano Fiona Gillespie's voice was youthful & pretty. Tenor Corey Shotwell made a high, light & unfussy sound that fit the music well.

The chorus of around 30 sounded neat & well-prepared. The orchestra played energetically & their ensemble was tight. The violins' bouncy, off-the-string playing during the soprano aria "Mirth, admit me of thy crew" was especially lively. The gamba solos in "But oh! sad virgin" were fluid & swaying. It was weird hearing chime-like sounds during "Or let the merry bells ring round" & fun hearing the organ during the chorale "There let the pealing organ blow." The extremely well-behaved audience was attentive & quiet throughout. It was quite abnormal seeing Patrick seated in the middle of the hall rather than in a front row aisle seat.

§ L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato HWV 55
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

L'ALLEGRO - Anna Gorbachyova, soprano; Michael Jankosky, tenor; Benjamin Kazez, bass
IL PENSEROSO - Hailey Fuqua, soprano; Agnes Vojtko, alto; Jason Rylander, tenor
IL MODERATO - Fiona Gillespie, soprano; Corey Shotwell, tenor; David Rugger, bass

American Bach Soloists Academy Orchestra
American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

Friday July 18 2014, 8p
San Francisco Conservatory of Music

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