The month of March has featured The Bach Variations: A Philharmonic Festival at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. Last week, I had the pleasure to hear the reduced forces of the Philharmonic present Bach’s Mass in B Minor. This week, the performance, again with reduced forces, included two Bach Suites, two violin concerti and an overture to one of Bach’s cantatas. The featured soloist was violinist Isabelle Faust playing the concertos BWV 1042 and BWV 1041. The concert was bookended by the 3rd and 4th orchestral suites.
The conductor for the evening was Bernard Labadie. Labadie is a very animated conductor and fun to watch. He clearly has a passion for the Baroque which was most evident to me in the shaping of lines. Typically, Bach’s music can come off as dry and mechanical. There were line shapings here that were fresh and welcomed. Also of particular note was the endings of movements. They just seemed to float away into the air. Very musical and satisfying.
The performance started out a little flat – not in pitch, but in energy. From all the way up in the balcony it was difficult to hear the singers. This was something I have not had a problem with at the Met. As the opera progressed, though, the energy picked up as well. Maybe it was because it was a matinee. Despite my criticism, the audience was quite appreciative, particularly of the performances of Damrau and Domingo.
I remember when I was in college (probably around 1984 or 1985) sitting in the “listening room” – a vault-like room in the library with double-thick walls – taking in Bach’s B minor Mass for the first time. One of the reasons for the interest was that I was a trumpet player and had an affinity for baroque music.
Having attended numerous concerts this season, under various conductors, it is interesting how each conductor gets a slightly different sound out of the orchestra. You can tell the subtle differences between the conductors with whom the orchestra feels confident with whom they are tentative. Gilbert is an expressive conductor that spent his time equally focusing on chorus and orchestra and provides room for the musicians to sing and play confidently and musically. There were many nice moments of musical line throughout the work. New ways of hearing the Mass unlike any recording.
Yet another satisfying evening at the Philharmonic.
Another outstanding performance by the New York Philharmonic. I had the pleasure of an excellent seat for a performance of Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s Carousel. I had not see this musical before, but knew the story and was aware was Hammerstein’s favorite after working on Oklahoma! The nice thing about staged concerts such as this is that the score and vocals are put front and center. That was the case with terrific performances by the leads (Kelly O’Hara, Nathan Gunn, Stephanie Blythe, Shuler Hensley, Jason Daniely, Jessie Muller, Kate Burton and John Cullum.