Review by Danny Gaisin
Nope, not cannoli’s or pizza; Mendelssohn’s no. 4; and damn, damn, damn – Sommerville’s erudite well-informed commentary notes in the program left me with little to add but opinion!
Given the season, a performance of STABAT MATER is à propos; but truth-be-known; this particular Gentile holiday leaves me cold.
I grew up in a French (read R.C.) section of Montreal and thus a constant target for my involvement in killing Jesus. Actually, I was sick that day!
Just about every composer including Rossini, Haydn, Dvořák, Scarlatti, Vivaldi, & Poulenc put this 13th century poem to music. The Hamilton Philharmonic presented the Pergolesi version with soloists, Monica Whicher & Jennifer Enns Modolo accompanied by our renowned Children’s Choir. It was a masterful rendering by the abbreviated orchestra; the two vocalists and especially the choir.
Zamfira Poloz, the HCC’s artistic director, does more than teach her charges to fully utilize their vocal abilities…she instills patience; dedication; focus and discipline – qualities that will assist them for the rest of their lives. Their ability to enunciate the Latin poetry and to cohese like a drill team made the group a tremendous asset to the performance and to the conductor himself. The two sopranos are a contrast in style. Mezzo Modolo possesses a voice that wafts softly over her audience with an intimacy that is akin to a butterfly’s touch. Whicher is more forceful and dynamic, with a broader emotional expanse. Both divas have the knack of vocally affecting their audience by expression as well as range.
Post interval, guest cellist Cameron Crozman performed Tchaikovsky’s variation on a Rococo Theme. This young musician (16 years old) exhibits a superb technical ability but also enjoys an innate self-esteem that was not intimidated by the tempo changes of the work’s early deviations. Each mood or sensitivity modifications were handled with a delicate, light-spirited rendering. His duet motif with the flute was executed with aplomb. The slight bow malfunction was professionally ignored.
Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ Symphony in A major is a popular and familiar composition. A favorite piece of our friend Shari Barbour (WNED-Buffalo); the piece receives a great deal of airtime on her classical broadcast. For the opening allegro (which was adapted as theme music for a serial radio-show of my youth!), maestro Sommerville imparted emphasis on the Vivace part of the composer’s recommendation. Then, a meticulous, almost metronomic andante movement. The moderate tempo’ed third and the finale saltarello (a Neapolitan 3-beat dance) were given a joyous exhilarating treatment. Result- the reading was about as good as it gets.
James Sommerville has been music director of the HPO for five years. During that time, we’ve noticed under his baton, an evolution from a technically-oriented but emotionally mediocre orchestra back into the more mature, sophisticated and passionate zenith it oftimes achieved under his predecessor. Great things ahead for the coming season.