Sunday, April 14, 2019

Brief review...

Brief Review:

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) has been selling out many times this year, and this weekend’s concerts were no exception. Danish-born conductor, 49- year old Thomas Sondergard, was the guest conductor. This is the first of a series of three visits that Sondergard will be making to Atlanta between now and the end of next season. It is almost as if he were auditioning.

Bernstein’s 1965 “Chichester Psalms” led the program. It’s a pleasant piece that recalls songs from “West Side Story,” “Orff’s “Carmina Burana,” with a splash of Prokofiev thrown in. Parts of it are beautifully lyrical and the text is quite religiously oriented. The ASO chorus provided an inspiring, if occasionally loud, performance. The soloist was countertenor Daniel Moody, who has a wonderfully warm, non-breathy, voice that suited the music perfectly. Soon the centenary of Bernstein’s birth will be gone and the frequent programming of his music will be just a memory.

The second part of the program featured Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The first movement introduction contains the murmurs that foretell the triumphant final movement, but here the murmurs were a bit too loud. Sondergard’s chose, Scherzo, moved briskly along, with some fine tympani playing by March Yancich. The third movement, Adagio, was nicely played but seemed to lack a forward momentum, so that at times, it dragged. The fourth movement, Presto, was exciting. Again, Sondergard chose a fast tempo that seemed consistent with the exuberant message of Schiller’s “Ode to Joy,” on which it is based. However, the tumultuous introduction to the fourth movement was surprisingly tame. Thomas Cooley, the tenor, was easily the most powerful of the four soloists, and Andrea Mastroni, the bass, was good, but had occasional odd accents, as on the initial “nicht diese Töne!” The ASO chorus was splendid but might have been even more impressive if reduced in size by about a quarter. When it is loud, it is quite loud in the hard acoustics of Symphony Hall. 

Maestro Sondergard made a memorable debut in Atlanta and we can look forward to hearing more from him in the upcoming months.

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