an all Harvard affaire

well, after an almost 1.75 month of craziness which resulted in my health taking a plunge, i beyond relieved to have a quiet sunday afternoon to myself while hopefully recovering. so, i did manage to miss yesterday’s Rameau’s Les Indes Galantes performed by Boston Baroque. oh well. in return, i did have a nice evening with wonderful company, so one can’t complain too much.

So, this is a write up of two consecutive performances I attended a week ago at Harvard:
1) John Adam’s “On the transmigration of souls” and Beethoven’s 9th at Sander Theater, and
2) Handel’s Messiah at Harvard Memorial Church

There’s a kind of rivalry between my school and Harvard and normally we wouldn’t praise “them” for anything :-D. But, i had suuuch great time attending both of these concerts. The first one was by the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, Radcliffe Choral Society, and Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum, and the Boston Children’s chorus. I’m a bit unsure about the timing of remembrance of the 9/11 victims on this particular day, but it was nice nonetheless having the opportunity to hear John Adam’s “on the transmigration of souls“. The program set me a bit uneasy at first because my last time attending Beethoven 9th was exactly on the 9/11 occasion back in LA. At that time, it left both I and my friend feeling out of place in an overtly patriotic and militaristic crowd waving and wearing american flags. Luckily this time, John Adam’s take is much more on the inner reflection of such an event. Thanks to my brief exchange with DtO earlier this year, I wasn’t surprised by the presence of the various amplified instruments on stage including recorded voice coming off loud speakers and electronic keyboard. This is not a piece for the light hearted. I wouldn’t be surprised to not hear any applause whatsoever when it ends given the uncertain feeling it gives. Much of the music somehow reminded of me of this scene at the end of one of my favorite movie “Ran”, where war was raging, people with good intention died as casualty, and a blind man whose parents were killed during the war is found fumbling on a cliff dropping his only grasp of life comfort (a buddha image). anyhow, here’s an except of the piece from youtube:

After “Nixon in China”, this is only my 2nd exposure to John Adam, but I enjoy listening to his music. The second half was Beethoven’s 9th. The contrast of mood compared to the first piece was so huge that I had a hard time at first switching my mind set, sort of a conflict in priorities and interests in the face of tragedy. In any case, I’ve heard the same piece by the same music group (namewise) at the same theater back in 2005, but this time around it was much much more enjoyable. surely a nice concert companion helps, but it was also largely a result of where we sat: first row near center on the balcony, otherwise known as the best seat in the intimate hall both visually and acoustically. I have nothing but praise for the huge numbers of singers and musicians (mostly students) on the stage. They were very sharp and energetic. after a 2nd movement that was the fastest i’ve ever heard, the 3rd movement was breath taking. this movement always takes me back to the image i had of the grass fields in Vietnam which i saw from school books. Thanks to the great view, I also realized how active the woodwind section is in the whole piece. Anyhow, it’s quite a well known piece, i’m sure everyone has heard plenty. here’s a re-post from my favorite recording with period instruments. I’m also glad to hear the friend who came along is now enjoying re-listening to this piece multiple times :-).

Before I had time to reflect much on this concert, Handel’s Messiah came up less than 24 hr later.  This was a free concert performed by the Harvard Baroque Chamber Orchestra and Harvard University Choir.  I didn’t know Harvard has such a cool orchestra!  It’s simply amazing to be so close to the music and seeing the joy in the musicians’ faces.  In contrast to LA where I lamented nonstop about being miles away, here in Boston I’ve been almost in direct sight to the instruments, musicians, singers, conductors. I’ve been avoiding Handel’s Messiah in the past mainly because of its overly religious content in a language I understand.  However, given my recently found passion for Handel, in particular for the mixture of the lovely baroque instruments and solo voices and choirs, I’ve made a conscious effort to attend everything of his here, especially when it’s FREE!  Though I had to leave early, the experience of hearing soprano Dominique Labelle, who was 3 meter away from me, singing “rejoice greatly” left me in suuuch lifted spirit.  Too bad i can’t find a link on youtube of her singing this, but here she is singing Bach’s Matthauespassion and Handel’s Arminio (in the same recording with Vivica Genaux).

and lastly, a link to “rejoice greatly”:

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About thả diều
writing-challenged opera-addict

2 Responses to an all Harvard affaire

  1. Eyesometric says:

    Many thanks for the leads to two new singers for me. I really enjoyed Labelle and Gauvin and will watch out for them in the future.

    Like

    • thả diều says:

      you’re welcome Eyes! It’s interesting i get much more out of listening to sopranos live than on recording; listening to Ms Labelle upclose was really a great experience. I don’t know Gauvin actually, would be nice to hear her live some day… but i also like her take here a lot :-).

      Like

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