Sunday, May 15, 2011

REVIEW: Greek Tragedy and Mythology with The Philadelphia Orchestra (Philadelphia)

Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts Verizon Hall (Philadelphia), Thursday April 28

After 10 musicals in 7 days in Broadway, I can't tell you how much I welcome to hear The Philadelphia Orchestra! This all-Stravinsky program is part of the first annual Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA). It also came amidst the announcement on April 16 2011 of the orchestra filing for Chapter 11 protection. But as the orchestra's letter also said, the music plays on and indeed it did!

Hearing The Philadelphia Orchestra under maestro Wolfgang Sawallisch in Hong Kong back in 2001 was a major turning point in my life of classical music appreciation. It was in that live concert that I experience an intensity so overwhelming that it washed over you. The free bowing produced that luxuriant sound that seemed to stay in you long after it's gone. It is therefore with high expectation I went to this concert and they didn't fail me.

The programme was inspired and showcased the best and possibilities in neo-classicism music. Apollon musag├Ęte must be one of Stravinsky's most elegant music and it showed of the orchestra's most celebrated string section to the fullest. Charles Dutoit's approach was about subtlety and lyricism, rather than overt drama. Nuances and dynamics were executed and colored with utmost care, and never rushed or harsh.

As for Oedipus Rex, restraints were dropped and focus was on the narrative. The performance didn't only showcased the innate beauty of the piece, but also Dutoit's instinctive approach to drama, he made it a theatrical event. I am a big fan of Paul Groves and he gave an engrossing and sensitive rendition of Oedipus. Petra Lang offered the perfect contrast in texture and her Jocasta was a dramatic triumph. Integral to the theatricality of the piece was the men of the Philadelphia Singers Chorale. They didn't just sing well with precision and harmony, but they also provided a potent backdrop to the story.

It was a beautiful performance in all accounts. Interestingly, the concert hall was half-filled and the audience was not as enthusiastic as I expect an American audience would. After seeing 14 performances (13 musicals and 1 orchestral concert) in this trip, every single performance received a standing ovation except this one, yet I feel this is the most deserving one... Sigh...

Greek Tragedy and Mythology
April 28, 29, 30 2011

The Philadelphia Orchestra
Charles Dutoit - Conductor
Paul Groves - Tenor
Petra Lang - Mezzo-soprano
Robert Gierlach - Bass-baritone
David Wilson-Johnson - Baritone
Matthew Plenk - Tenor
David Howey - Narrator
Men of the Philadelphia Singers Chorale -

Stravinsky - Apollon musag├Ęte
Stravinsky - Oedipus Rex

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