A superb trio of soloists lifts Boston Baroque’s “Creation”
Frequently overlooked when discussing the merits of Boston Baroque is the seemingly trivial fact that the orchestra and chorus are united under a single name.
The symbolic and practical value of such a unity is often subtle, but it was a great asset to the ensemble’s performance of Haydn’s The Creation Saturday night in New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall.
An inspired lineup of soloists—soprano Amanda Forsythe, tenor Keith Jameson, and bass-baritone Kevin Deas—joined conductor Martin Pearlman and the ensemble in a concert that made clear the oratorio’s stature as one of the peaks in Haydn’s oeuvre—and showed why the work is also such a perennial crowd-pleaser.
Part of the success of the performance was due to the chemistry of the soloists, both individually and as an ensemble. Their timbres complemented each others’ in a captivating way, with the trio with choir at the end of part one received with great applause.
Forsythe, aptly aglow in a beautiful maternity gown, sang the parts of both Gabriel and Eve with all the mirth of motherhood and creation. Her playful vocal expression came through especially well in the first aria in part two when she was aided by the light flute solo paired with Haydn’s delightful word painting.
Jameson’s bright tenor was evocative of his subject Uriel, an archangel of poetry. He gave a nuanced performance, bringing a completely different tonal expression to the final recitative that fit perfectly with the libretto.
Deas too, was compelling from the very start. The Boston Baroque favorite gave the first recitative elegantly with a measured voice only to unleash full strength in the ensuing section. Between descriptions of fierce mammals and pleasant pastures in the fifth recitative of part two, Deas was able to show off his versatility in a matter of bars. He admirably held the lowest note in the piece: its impact was no doubt propelled by his magnetic stage presence—which in combination with Forsythe’s grace made for a charming Adam and Eve duet.
The Boston Baroque ensemble got off to a somewhat shaky start with the first chord, and there were isolated incidents of errant brass tuning and fitful overpowering of soloists.
On the whole, however, as a group they were tight and synchronized, providing crisp execution under Martin Pearlman’s direction. The players’ musical control as evidenced by its delicate entrances and gentle phrasing was remarkable and chorus and orchestra enriched the other throughout. Violin ornaments would fluently follow the sopranos’ phrase ending, and the double basses would crescendo as one with the men of the bass section.
Boston Baroque is recording The Creation with the same soloists, a disc that Pearlman says will be released next May. If Saturday’s performance is to be any indication, it will undoubtedly be a crowning triumph for the ensemble.
Susie Y. Kim is in her fourth year of pursuing an undergraduate degree in literature and philosophy at Harvard University. She currently serves as editor of the Harvard Crimson arts section and spins classical music at 95.3FM WHRB.
Posted in Performances