Saturday, February 28, 2015

Berkeley Symphony: Program III

Sasha Cooke
Photo credit: Dario Acosta
Thursday night I heard the Berkeley Symphony present a program of pleasurable music. Executive Director René Mandel thanked the orchestra's sponsors, then conductor Joana Carneiro spoke briefly about the pieces before she picked up her baton. First we heard Ravel's Mother Goose Suite, which Maestra Carneiro gave an airy quality. The last movement culminated in a billowing climax that then seemed to evaporate rather than come to a stop.

Next we heard the world premiere of the orchestral version of Jake Heggie's song cycle Camille Claudel: Into the Fire. Though the 6 songs express varying degrees of anguish, loss & madness, Mr. Heggie's music is consistently pretty. Mezzo Sasha Cooke sounded velvety & rich & presented the songs tastefully. Her voice blended eerily into the orchestra at the conclusion. Many of the movements have a dance-like quality, & Maestro Carneiro led liltingly. The Shakuntala movement, an exotic oriental dance, reminded me of "What a movie!" from Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti. The winds are prominent, & the reduced string section often plays with mutes. Mr. Heggie & librettist Gene Scheer were in the audience & came on stage to receive flowers & take a bow with the performers. Mr. Heggie knelt adoringly in front of Ms. Cooke to show his appreciation.

After intermission we heard Brahms 4. The opening was momentarily hesitant, but it was overall a forthright performance, & the orchestra sounded secure. Maestra Carneiro is a perky conductor, & the music always moved forward. She waves her hands very actively & moves freely, at times looking close to dancing.

The audience was generally attentive & quiet, though at the start of the Heggie a man took his seat in the center of the front row while the music was playing, then a man in the row in front of me had a coughing fit & had to leave. I spotted John Adams in the audience, as well as Frederica von Stade, who seemed to be Mr. Heggie's date.

§ Berkeley Symphony
Joana Carneiro, conductor
Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano

Program III: Imagination

Ravel: Mother Goose Suite
Jake Heggie: Camille Claudel: Into the Fire for Orchestra and Mezzo-Soprano
Brahms: Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98

February 26, 2015, 8:00 pm
Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley


David Lasson said...

Frederica von Stade, wow! I wonder what Cherubino would make of the Brahms Fourth!

Axel Feldheim said...

Well, Cherubino is a bit more mature now, so I would assume he appreciated it very much.

Von Stade lives in the East Bay, I believe, so it's not unusual to see her around. I actually got to meet her a couple of years ago at a reception, & she is simply a really nice person. She started to introduce herself to me, & I just blurted out, "Yes, I know who you are, & I listened to a lot of your records when I was a teenager!"