Review by Florence Roullet 11/3/’13
One knows something special is cooking at the H.P.O. when you cannot find a parking spot for miles. Then run to the theater and see other attendees running late as well… they too facing the same challenge. Yes, it was a special event and the theater was PACKED, ready to savor an exceptional menu under the direction of a grand chef, the visiting conductor Kevin Mallon.
First, the appetizer, a horn section playing Gabrieli; making a solemn opening to the night. These four Canzonae pieces allowed us to appreciate the great quality of the sound in the theater as each instrument could be heard with an incredible clarity.The Main dish: the four seasons of Vivaldi with guest soloist Stephen Sitarski (the HPO’s new concertmaster). I had the great pleasure to discover Stephen Sitarski a few weeks ago at the HPO (see previous review), and couldn’t wait to reiterate the experience. This time, the master had a large playground to demonstrate his art, supported beautifully by the orchestra. And oh surprise! In the orchestra, a harpsichord: my dream instrument to play as a kid. And here we were, following the virtuosi strings for four seasons. La Primavera (Spring) and its happy and animated Danza Pastorale, L’Estate (Summer) with the stunning contrast between the delicate part of the soloist and the strong response of the orchestra, l’Autunno (Autumn) and the sounds of the hunters (precisely as the conductor described to us) and the magnifique Winter season that literally gave me the chills (how appropriate) during both the Allegro non molto and the Allegro movements. The famous Allegro non-molto afforded the best demonstration of the soloist’s mastery and the final Allegro movement where, to me, all the violins were soloists. Impressive; amazing yet very approachable by non-specialist because just like the impressionism genre in painting, this music describes the real world: the cold, the leaves, the wind, and the birds.
Fromage and dessert: well may I admit that it was, maybe, my favorite part of the meal? After the intermission, “Oh Canada” was played by the orchestra accompanied by a singing audience as recognition for our veterans. Then, the Handel “Royal Fireworks” totally enchanted me. And pardon my French, but the Ouverture, Bourée and other Réjouissance made me feel like I was in the room of the king himself. The percussions were back for Handel and overall I found that these pieces fitted perfectly for the orchestra’s configuration. During the four seasons, I secretly wished somebody would turn the volume up a notch, to feel more shrouded in the beauty of the sound. Throughout the Handel, it was just perfect.
Such a concert; and this type of music, simply makes one leave the theater with a more active brain and a fuller heart.