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Review: Under conductor Michael Stern, ASO ramps it up for Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4 [ArtsATL]

by Mark Gresham | 10 Mar 2017 for ArtsATL.com

ASO guest conductor Michael Stern with pianist Marc-André Hamelin. (Photo by Jeff Roffman.)

ASO guest conductor Michael Stern with pianist Marc-André Hamelin. (Photo by Jeff Roffman.)

On Thursday evening at Symphony Hall, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performed a concert of all-Russian music by Shostakovich, Medtner and Tchaikovsky, led by guest conductor Michael Stern with pianist Marc-André Hamelin as featured guest soloist.. …
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Atlanta Baroque Orchestra and St. Philip’s Schola celebrate St. Cecila with works by Purcell and Handel

by Mark Gresham | 20 NOV 2016

Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, St. Philip's Cathedral Schola perform Purcell's "Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day."

Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, St. Philip’s Cathedral Schola perform Purcell’s “Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day.” (photo: Mark Gresham)

On Saturday evening, November 19, at The Episcopal Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta, the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, led by artistic director Julie Andrijeski, in collaboration with the Schola of the Cathedral of St. Philip, directed by Dale Adelmann, and the Friends of Cathedral Music, presented a concert of music for St. Cecilia’s Day by Henry Purcell and George Frideric Handel. Featured vocal soloists were soprano Teresa Wakim, countertenor Reginald Mobley, tenor Thomas Cooley and baritone Mischa Bouvier. The program is scheduled to be repeated on Sunday, November 20 at 4:00 pm at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Roswell, Georgia.

In Anglican, Catholic and eastern Orthodox churchs the feast day of St. Cecilia is observed on November 22 each year. Public concerts of music in her honor, scheduled around that date, have been common in London since the 1683, when the first was organized by the Musical Society of London.

Saturday’s program consisted of what are perhaps the two best known examples of Baroque music which celebrate St. Cecilia, the patroness saint of music and musicians: Henry Purcell’s Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day (1692) and G.F. Handel’s Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day (1739).

Both works began with orchestral introductions. In the “Symphony” which began Purcell’s work, the orchestra seemed to have difficulty finding a consensus with regard to the music’s pulse. One wondered whether there might have been difficulty hearing left to right across the space between the cathedral’s transepts. By contrast, after intermission, the “Overture” to Handel’s ode was was secure, the ensemble much tighter and more sharply defined. That held true for the rest of the work.

Henry Purcell (engraving by R. White)

Henry Purcell (engraving by R. White)

The ringing sound of the Cathedral Schola, with a roster of 34 singers, filled the space easily in the louder homophonic passages without overextending. Like the instrumental intros of the orchestra, the contrapuntal singing was more clearly defined in the Handel, with the Schola’s polyphonic choral skills most exuberantly displayed in its busy, energetic finale.

Of the guest vocal soloists, only Wakim and Cooley sang in both works. Wakim did better and sang more extensively in the Handel, where she demonstrated an amiably clear and liquid soprano tone. Cooley’s appealingly lyrical tenor was also more prominently displayed in the Handel, although there were fine moments in the Purcell as well.

George Frideric Handel in 1733, by Balthasar Denner

George Frideric Handel (portrait by Balthasar Denner. 1733)

The others sang in the Purcell ode. Bouvier, with his deep-toned baritone voice, was the most prominent among them in that work, consistently heard well against the orchestra. Mosley’s flute-like countertenor was suited to style but translucent enough to nearly disappear in the texture at times in context of the Cathdral’s resonant acoustics — a notable exception being in a trio (“With that sublime Celestial Lay”) between himself, Cooley and Bouvier, who lightened up a little to better balance with his higher-voiced colleagues. Although uncredited in the program, bass Timothy Gunter stepped out of the ranks of the chorus for a credible duo with Bouvier near the work’s end (“Let these among themselves contest”).

The goal of “period” groups like Atlanta Baroque Orchestra is to present such music, through “historical performance practice,” in a way that Handel and Purcell might have heard it performed in their own day, on original or replicated instruments of the era. It was good to have an opportunity to hear and compare these St. Cecilia odes performed from that perspective by the ABO, the Cathedral Schola and their guest soloists. •

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Mark Gresham on ArtsATL: February 2016

Collected links of reviews and articles of the month on ArtsATL.com:

ASO Concertmaster David Coucheron solos.

ASO Concertmaster David Coucheron solos.

8 FEB 2016 • Review: With Spano at the helm, ASO debuts new Michael Kurth piece and honors two of its own [ArtsATL]
 
photo by Dustin Chambers
Guest conductor Cristian Măcelaru.

Guest conductor Cristian Măcelaru.

22 FEB 2016 • Review: Atlanta Symphony plays satisfying all-Russian program under Cristian Măcelaru [ArtsATL]
 
photo by Jeff Roffman
Robert Spano leads the ASO through Mark Grey's Frankenstein.

Robert Spano leads the ASO through Mark Grey’s “Frankenstein.”

29 FEB 2016 • Review: ASO can’t tame the beast in “Frankenstein”; pianist Jorge deftly performs Brahms concerto [ArtsATL]
 
photo by Jeff Roffman

Mark Gresham on ArtsATL: January 2016

Collected links of reviews and articles of the month on ArtsATL.com:

Guest conductor Ludovic Morlot.

Guest conductor Ludovic Morlot.

9 JAN 2016 • Review: Under conductor Ludovic Morlot, ASO brings in the new year with Strauss and Brahms [ArtsATL]
 
photo by Brandon Patoc
Robert Spano and guest pianist Simon Trpčeski.

Robert Spano and guest pianist Simon Trpčeski.

18 JAN 2016 • Review: Spano leads ASO through a program of despair, hope with Shostakovich and Rachmaninoff [ArtsATL]
 
photo by Jeff Roffman
Donald Runnicles leads the ASO & Chorus in Beethoven's Missa Solemnis.

Donald Runnicles leads the ASO & Chorus in Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis.

25 JAN 2016 • Review: Atlanta Symphony and Chorus slide on icy patches in Beethoven’s “Missa solemnis” [ArtsATL]
 
photo by Jenni Girtman
Miguel Harth-Bedoya conducts the ASO.

Miguel Harth-Bedoya conducts the ASO.

29 JAN 2016 • Review: ASO hits high notes under baton of Harth-Bedoya for López, Prokofiev, Dvořák [ArtsATL]
 
photo by Jeff Roffman

Review: Kaleidoscope brings light, lively evening of chamber music to Eddie’s Attic [ArtsATL]

by Mark Gresham | 20 Dec 2012, ArtsATL

Eddie's Attic began a successful chamber music series this year. (Photo by Mark Gresham)

Eddie’s Attic began a successful chamber music series this year. (Photo by Mark Gresham)

Eddie’s Attic hosted another of its classical music concerts on Tuesday, performed by flutist Jessica Sherwood, violinist Helen Hwaya Kim, cellist Charae Krueger and violist William Johnston … • READ MORE on ArtsATL

Review: ASO and Chorus survive rocky moments in evening of Bernstein, Walton, Copland [ArtsATL]

by Mark Gresham | 20 Oct 2012, ArtsATL

Robert Spano conducted the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on Thursday night. (Photo by Jeff Roffman)

Robert Spano conducted the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on Thursday night. (Photo by Jeff Roffman)

There was a time when any performance of a choral work by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus was a good bet for a sold-out house, especially with not just one but two significant choral-orchestral works on the bill. … • READ MORE on ArtsATL

Review: ASO’s emotional “Defiant Requiem” honors Holocaust victims at Terezín [ArtsATL]

by Mark Gresham | 12 Oct 2012, ArtsATL

Murry Sidlin conducts his

Murry Sidlin conducts his “Defiant Requiem” Thursday evening.

The Anti-Defamation League held its 2012 Community of Respect Reception and Concert on Thursday at Symphony Hall. The well-attended reception, held in the Galleria, honored community leaders Linda Selig and Ben Johnson. … • READ MORE on ArtsATL

Preview: ASO musicians to let the healing begin with “United by Music” at Eddie’s Attic [ArtsATL]

by Mark Gresham | 29 Sep 2012, ArtsATL

Classical music will return to Eddie's Attic on Sunday with a benefit for ASO musicians.

Classical music will return to Eddie’s Attic on Sunday with a benefit for ASO musicians.

In the wake of contentious labor negotiations between Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musicians and management, including a lockout that began August 26 and ended Wednesday with ratification of an agreement, the ATL Symphony Musicians will play a three-hour chamber music marathon at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur … • READ MORE on ArtsATL

Preview: Violist Jennifer Stumm brings home a night of classical music at Eddie’s Attic [ArtsATL]

by Mark Gresham | 9 Sep 2012, ArtsATL

Jennifer Stumm first played Eddie's at the age of 16 as a fiddle player in a country band.

Jennifer Stumm first played Eddie’s at the age of 16 as a fiddle player in a country band.

The viola is the middle child among orchestral bowed string instruments. The players of its closest siblings, the violin and violincello, get far more fame and attention as featured soloists with U.S. orchestras. And while there are few truly well known, rock star viola virtuosi on the symphonic circuit in this country, Jennifer Stumm hasn’t let the odds deter her from making an international career out of playing the “big fiddle.” … • READ MORE on ArtsATL