Saturday, February 08, 2014

SESSIONS: A Tale of Two Keyboards

Thursday night I attended a special Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra event that included explanatory talks, selections from PBO's subscription concert this week, & a wine reception. The atmosphere was informal, & the evening seemed designed to be the least intimidating classical music experience possible. Local radio personalities Hoyt Smith & Rachael Myrow hosted & encouraged us to live tweet, post to instagram, & get “free booze” afterward.

We heard CPE Bach's Concerto for Fortepiano & Harpsichord & the 1st, 2nd & 4th movements of Haydn's Symphony No. 68. Conductor Nicholas McGegan & harpsichordist Robert Levin introduced each piece with a brief talk & slides about the composer. It was like going to a concert without needing to read the program notes first. I liked hearing Mr. Levin demonstrate the harpsichord by playing the opening of the Moonlight Sonata. Maestro McGegan was an especially funny & personable speaker. He gleefully pointed out the jokey cuckcoo theme in the Bach & the flatulent bassoon solos in the Haydn. He also told the audience, “You don’t need to go to concerts like you’ve recently been mummified.” While the stage was reset between pieces, Ms. Myrow interviewed orchestra member Kristin Zoernig, who told us that her double bass was built in 1648 & was played at Lincoln’s inauguration and funeral.

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra photo IMG_20140206_193805_zps8940eaab.jpgMr. Levin on harpsichord & Ya-Fei Chuang on fortepiano were soloists for the CPE Bach double concerto. They both played crisply, though Ms. Chuang's playing was more rhythmically free. She looked very elegant at the keyboard. The orchestra gave a characteristcally lively, bouyant & sunny performance of the Haydn. For some reason it sounded twice as loud to me as the Bach.

The concert portion ran about 75 minutes, then the audience quaffed complimentary wine on the 2nd floor. I chatted with a couple of people in the PBO administration, who were delighted that the event was sold out & that the attendees seemed to include more young people than usual. I spotted an audience member wearing Google Glass & another dressed like Superman. Maestro McGegan proved himself a party animal by being one of the last people to leave the reception.

§ SESSIONS: A Tale of Two Keyboards
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

Nicholas McGegan, conductor
Robert Levin, harpsichord
Ya-Fei Chuang, fortepiano
Rachael Myrow, host
Hoyt Smith, host

Concerto for Fortepiano and Harpsichord in E-flat major, Wq 47

Symphony No. 68 in B-flat major (selections)

Thursday, February 6 at 8:00 PM

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