messiah @ symphony hall

Edit: the whole performance on 02-Dec-2012 can be re-listened to >here.
ok, after re-hearing the CT’s “but who may abide..” take, i obliged to embed the contralto’s version in comment section.


red circle: td; blue rectangle: violin I and II; blue square: harpsichord; red oval: bass section of chorus

it’s that time of the year again, when messiah is popping up in the area like rabbits in the spring, H&H with 3 consecutive performances yesterday, today, and tomorrow (which will be broadcast live at 3PM EST on WGBH internet radio, for all fans of the Handel and Haydn orchestra / choir, Karina Gauvin, Sumner Thompson.) On thursday we had an electricity outage here for a couple hours that sent the whole city into darkness and yours truly into a spending spree, one of which a very spontaneous purchase to hear period instruments and Ms. Gauvin up close. If you have been here before, you might remember my reservation for Symphony hall. Haven’t been to a live concert in a while, i was really craving for the sound of the baroque violins and, especially because it’s the baroque violin, one has to be picky about where to sit to really get immersed in it. After some probing, I spotted the perfect seat.  It’s a bit under the stage, so i knew ahead of time what comes would _just_ be a load of violins (and soloists), exactly what the doktor ordered.

Christina Day Martinson, concertmaster

Christina Day Martinson, concertmaster

I’ve heard raving reviews of Karina Gauvin’s and couldn’t quite pass up this chance.  In that sense, i think in the Messiah, the soprano is _highly_ underused as we only sporadically get to hear Ms. Gauvin.  She has a veeeery rich and warm voice, one which i believed works very well in Symphony Hall.  Here is purely a matter of taste, she chose to use the vibrato throughout, and somehow I much prefer when she sang without it.  The highlight of the night for me is “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd”. I a bit confused as she shared the aria with the countertenor, is it because they’re all singing 3 consecutive nights in a big hall that they’re splitting duties? He took the first run, then she followed. The contrast is quite amazing as her voice rose above, hard to describe, just a silent hall with waarm high notes soaring high to a bed of violins underneath, breathtaking.  Here’s a take of Alice Coote and Ailish Tynan splitting the aria, oh how i wished she was also there last night.

I not sure if Ms. Nosky is still the concertmaster of the H&H, she wasn’t there last night, too bad, as I got the perfect seat.  Christina Day Martinson took the lead, from her first note, i knew exactly why i bought the ticket.  (Actually i was excited all day from the moment i purchased ticket.)  Being so up close, i was even more surprised how thin the H&H is, one can spot and hear instruments between the musicians’ legs!  Sitting slightly on the right was also perfect for several reasons: the deep violas, cellos, and SUPERB harpsichord was ALL on my right ears, along with bass section of chorus.  Given that they tend to get buried when the high notes from soprano section + violins taking over, sound partitioning was just perfect as those high notes were a bit farther away (just a bit really, I was 1 meter away from Sumner Thompson’s feet, merely 3m away from Karina Gauvin…)  Speaking of Sumner Thompson, i *love* his voice.  As for the CT, well, I knew it was a CT when purchasing tix, would have preferred a mezzo… but i read he’s one of the most sought after CT… and the tenor: i was sitting a bit too close to really enjoy his voice.. so not much to report.  The chorus was REALLLY great, loooove love the balance.

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boston baroque: jewels and discoveries

given that i know nothing about music, my intention for writing these posts were mainly to highlight what moves me the most during these concerts. tonight, it was again Christina Day Martinson and her three violins. Why three? because she was playing Biber’s violin sonatas, and each violin was tuned differently to achieve the various sounds Biber wanted to express (read below for more on this).

Tonight, she was playing Biber’s Mystery Sonata No. 10 (“The Crucifixion”) and Mystery Sonata No. 14 (“Assumption of the Virgin”). In the past, sometimes I found the violin player’s movement distracting. No clue if i more mature now or she was just rightly tuned with the music, but her dancing (in knee-high leather boots) and violin playing were fantastically in unison. The music is quite furious at time and melodic at others.

Christina Day Martinson, (c) WGBH-boston

I wasn’t the only one tapping my feet (silently) along. The other violinist (there were only 2 violins, 2 violas, 1 cello + 1 bass for the night) was also moving her head along (i mention her because even with my totally broken gaydar i’m quite sure she’s a white shirt (and black suit)). You can listen to Ms Martinson play Biber live here . I highly recommend listening to Ms. Martinson and Maestro Pearlman’s explanations regarding violin tuning. She also talked about her background. (I tried to embed the darn thing which wasted my last hour grrr) Read more of this post