December 14, 2005

BSO / Renée Fleming Christmas

Mom and I just got back from a Christmas concert at the Meyerhoff featuring soprano soloist Renée Fleming, the preeminent soprano on the opera scene over the past several years. My friend Jordana met us there as well.

The concert was disappointing due to poor balance between soloist and orchestra, and even between the wind instruments and strings within the orchestra. For reasons beyond my reckoning, those in charge had Ms. Fleming stand in line with the first row of violins and the conductor instead of out in front. During the first half of the concert much of her performance was thus overshadowed by the orchestra, especially during several Handel arias which required a more delicate sound.

The balance improved somewhat in the second half, mostly due to the nature of the music, but several all-orchestral pieces suffered from an overpowering wind section. I must admit this surprised me immensely, as a flute was actually the culprit during the Pastoral Symphony from Handel's Messiah, which created the effect of a harmony line appearing to be the melody.

As for the quality of the music beyond balance, it was, for the most part, excellent. I felt Renée made a few unusual artistic decisions here and there, and she was slightly behind in the execution of the run passages in "Rejoice Greatly", a Messiah Christmas classic, but on the whole her expressiveness and sound quality were unsurprisingly beautiful. The audience was treated to a double encore, the last of which was a brilliant a cappella performance of Amazing Grace, easily the highlight of the evening. Had more unaccompanied music been featured in this concert, my overall assessment would likely be entirely different, but unfortunately it was just too difficult to get past the imbalances to really enjoy the music without straining to hear the featured performer.

Posted by Andy at December 14, 2005 12:30 AM to the Music category
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