Review by Danny Gaisin
In business and especially the computer world, innovation usually means some unforeseen problems that require ‘tweaking’; think Microsoft’s VISTA™. With an annually recreated ensemble such as the National Academy Orchestra, one would expect that the early concerts would lack cohesion or any semblance of professionalism. Not so, for the past few years, the Brott Festival sound was proficient right out of the starting gate. 2014’s 27th incarnation is no exception…great from the get-go.
Last night’s opening concert featured works by Mozart performed by the NAO musicians as well as the choral group ARCADY. A new composition by Arcady’s creator Ron Beckett began the program followed by the celebrated ‘Jupiter’ symphony No. 41. Conductor Brott (O.C.; O.O.; & now O.Q.!!) read the inaugural allegro with a somewhat rushed vivacemente rather than Mozart’s notated vivace. He was more lyrical and dramatic with the andante cantabile 2nd movement. Brott then turned the podium over to apprentice Ben Kepes for the two subsequent movements. The menuetto third with its ¾ tempo was formulaically performed in a fashion that was technically faultless but unimaginative. There was no sense of his imbuing a personal imprimatur on the presentation… perhaps, opening night jitters. However, his rendering of the finale molto allegro with its numerous motives and fugue-theme plus the repetitive codas was the reverse. One felt this was result of his affinity, comfort and familiarity with this iconic classical treasure. He aced it!
Post interval, Mozart’s Requiem, again with Arcady and talented soloists Gabrielle McLaughlin’s faultlessly operatic soprano and tenor Christopher Fischer whose endearingly slight tremolo and pure diction is outstanding. For this work, they were augmented by alto Jennifer Modolo & Michael York (not the actor) whose baritone reverberated across the acoustically delightful Burlington Arts Centre.
Speaking of the BPAC, this was this writer’s first formal visit and some personal observations may explain a slight bias about the evening. First, we needed rescuing in order to leave the parking area and be led into the actual Hall. Then, a rather wearisome hang-about in the lobby instead of having the doors open earlier. This was especially tiring for some of us older folk whose legs DO easily fatigue. Then, the surprisingly regimented front-of-house staff that seem to have no independence of thought, somewhat like their counterparts at L.A.’s Disney Hall but without the automatic weapons! Finally, I was chastised by the Style Police for wearing white sneakers. They were finally & officially approved as ‘proper’ by audience member Hermann Proper. The next concert is at BPAC June 27th with guest pianist Arthur Ozolins.
As an aside, let’s hope that the audience will remember Brott’s caveat about applause between movements – DON’T!!!!