Ten thousand adore you happily: H + H
The second oldest performing arts organization in the Commonwealth[i] reset its 545-day stop of in-person concerts in front of an impatient and festive crowd at the Esplanade last night. With considerably increased numbers on stage, breadth of spirit, new text and a brilliant Marian Alsop as conductor, the 207-year-old Handel and Haydn Society in its 2,536e performance, placed Beethoven’s 197-year-old Ninth Symphony in front of 10,000 souls. The message: We’re back and we want to share the joy.
Sharing, even on a beautiful summer night with listeners scattered across the lawn, suffered from certain limitations. One appreciates the festive return to normalcy and the fun of being part of such a large and adorable crowd, but a reviewer should also note the elements of distancing… beyond distances.
We have already complained about the inadequacy of the sound systems on the Esplanade. Not to mention this issue, but from the section where the management had seated us, only one speaker rocked and hummed us whenever lower strings needed to be heard (so we couldn’t tell if they were fitted. hoses or rubber bands). Thus, we would be remiss in making definitive comments on magnificent antique clarinets, brass instruments, oboes and transverse flutes. Despite the individual miking of all players (clip mics on the upper strings), the intricacies of historic timbre did not survive the conversion to modern speakers; However, the installation of Scorpio Sound Systems provided good volume and good coverage. And a replay via a large HiFi system could be revealing, although I guess there won’t be a stream?
Our impressions of the attractive instruments came via close-ups on the giant video screen. The audio-visual team at Remote Facilities Services Inc did wonders in making the images bright and crisp in the pale, low pool of general lighting provided by the DCR’s low-over-standards bulbs. In contrast, the adjacent playing fields sported powerful and efficient high-intensity lighting. What does that say about the priorities? Mike Vendeland and his assistant Daniel J. Singer performed a video script that followed the solos and sections without boring quick cuts. They gave Alsop generous screen time, ready for the spotlight, but the placement of the cameras must have been a factor in our seeing so little of the bright red mane of lead violin Aislinn Nosky.
Watch Alsop wrestle with demons, dance with goblins, and float with deities designed for the grand theater. She described daring interpretive arcs, fashioned great tutti, invoked moving solos without excessive cues. Even with the required relaxations, the road to the destination never wavered, although concentration lagged behind in the Adagio.
In this sublime third movement, he really failed to commune with others in a shared space. It could only have worked outdoors if the venue used aerial surround sound speakers that enveloped the crown in a virtual temple of music. And with the distance traveled and the hustle and bustle of traffic, Alsop couldn’t summon the divine tranquility demanded by the movement, bringing it to a brisk 13-minute pace, compared to the more typical 15 minutes. I understand why. And some uncomfortable settings also hampered our transport to higher spheres, although moments, such as Todd Williams’ exquisite natural horn solo in the final variation, took us up a few rungs on Jacob’s ladder by. compared to the dominant meh. Alsop’s affect apparently sought some additional expression. I wish we could hear what she must have been going through her head.
The opening movement Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso revealed itself with enough charge and commitment to feel fresh and new. Slight alignment hazards can probably be attributed to the reported lack of a full dress rehearsal in the shell. And you wonder how well the players could get along.
In the Perennial Molto we heard great work from the baroque cans of timpanist Jonathan Hess, and in the trio, when the trombones came in with such great effect, pure HIP ensued, from a HIP ensemble that gives rarely cause for concern. Alsop drew a lot of engagement and walked through all contrasting sections with authority.
The visual excitement of the final began when the gigantic H + H augmented choir transformed on their risers. We understand the need for full sound outside and a large number of people to build a community, but due to the availability of amplification there was some question as to whether the professional H + H choir that we know and admire would have done the trick … and with ‘more pleasant and cheerful tones.
Of course, we don’t hear from a singer for a while. The orchestral introduction to the fourth movement, which so skillfully sums up the previous three, takes a long time before the bass strings sing the famous Joy theme, soon interrupted so electrically by the baritone, “Oh friends, not those tones.” You haven’t heard anything yet, he seems to be saying… or he would have made such a statement if he had intoned Beethoven’s own words. Instead, we heard from the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, and 22sd United States Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith’s text, “O friend, my heart is tired / Such darkness. / Now it competes for joy. », Projected with force and conviction towards the skies with conviction and amplitude by the bass-baritone Dashon Burton in a surprising and spectacular turn.
The vocal quartet listened to each other well, emerging from the community as they should. The viola part is usually lost in the textures, but that evening, with the big ears of the clever mixer Daniel J. Singer, one could rejoice in the long warm lines of the mezzo-soprano Taylor Raven. Soprano Susanna Phillips soared with brilliant authority. Issachah Sauvage, a tenor with bugle pipes, deserves the Most Valuable Player Award. He spoke to all the inhabitants of the earth in his transcendent moment.
As the movement, a choral fantasy or a complete symphony in itself, passed through its four sections with built anticipation. In the choral and vocal parts, Smith’s lyrical ode always followed Schiller’s metric scheme, and sometimes even Germanic tonal coloring. We provide the three column parallel version HERE. And readers will benefit from Cashman Kerr Prince’s exegesis HERE.
“Bruised planet, home of billions, / Our long shadow lies in wait for your face.” sung with dramatic fatality. “To the Earth, forgive us, we claim, let us leave / Live in humble thanks and joy”, a choir of cicadas from the bushes near us grated their assent. The ten thousand witnesses and over 100 performers seemed deeply moved by the last line of the text, “Let us praise you with one voice” (“you” represents the Earth, not the Creator). And so to speak all of us.
[i] The 235-year-old Stoughton Musical Society claims the top spot.
Lee Eiseman is the editor of Spy