It's been a while since I went to a San Diego Symphony concert, but this weekend's program of Villa Lobos' Bachianas brasileiras No. 5, Mozart's E-flat sinfonia concertante, and Fauré's Requiem was too inviting to stay away. To add to that, one of my buddies also agreed to go with me on very short notice, so the evening was looking quite on the up!
The show started on a bit of a down note, however. Nicole Cabell, the featured soprano who enchanted Copley Hall audiences when she sang Solveig's Song here during the run of selections from Grieg's Peer Gynt a few years ago had called in sick for the entire run. On Friday night she was replaced by Alice Teyssier, an obscure music specialist and flautist who is in town working on her doctorate degree at UCSD (Saturday and Sunday performances will feature Jessica Rivera instead). I doubt that she was given much rehearsal time, but she did a credible job interpreting and enlivening Brazilian passion in the Villa Lobos, and displayed beautiful musicianship with her phrasing. The voice itself was quite beautiful and light, if not quite full-bodied (come to think of it, she sort of sounded like her instrument, the flute), and she underprojected when singing softer than mezzo-forte in both the Villa Lobos and the famous soprano solo 'Pie Jesu' in the Fauré requiem - both very lightly accompanied numbers.
I would have preferred a slower tempo for the Aria (cantilena) section of the Bachianas Brasileiras, but both the soloist and the cellos coped nicely with its speedy briskiness. A slower tempo would have provided a better contrast with the fieriness of the following Dansa, however. I also thought Maestro Ling could have helped keeping the cellos volume down to avoid covering the soprano's voice. I guess the lack of rehearsal time was the major factor (I mean... she was also covered during the very soft passages of the Pie Jesu, and the accompanying instruments really couldn't have played much softer than they did).
Mozart's concertante for oboe, clarinet, bassoon and French horn soloists was, I thought, the highlight of the evening. The San Diego Symphony is a really well endowed group when it comes to its principal instrumentalists! Sarah Skuster (oboe), Sheryl Renk (clarinet), Valentin Martchev (bassoon) and Benjamin Jaber (horn) were all flawlessly inspiring in their virtuosity, yet they cooperated so well that one would think that they could all finish each others' sentences. The orchestra under Maestro Ling was wonderfully supportive. Everyone was so in sync with everyone else that they actually sounded like they were all enjoying the piece, and their enthusiasm infected the audiences, which clapped the musicians out for three curtain calls before giving way to the intermission.
Fauré Requiem took up the second half of the concert and it was quite splendid for the most part. Joining the symphony on the stage were the two soloists; Alice Teyssier and baritone Quinn Kelsey, along with the utterly reliable San Diego Master Chorale. Both the chorus and the orchestra were impeccable. As to the soloists, if my ears had to strain to hear Ms Teyssier, Mr Kelsey effortlessly delivered his beautifully controlled and stately baritone right through them. With his tone as reassuring as Fauré anxiety-free music was, their combination really rendered peace to the hushed auditorium in the Libera me section. A really classy performance for an upcoming operatic baritone to look out for!
There are two further performances of this show at the San Diego Symphony this weekend. I wish I could go, but I had spent all of yesterday goofing off (went on a long bike ride to Mission Trails Regional Park and back before going to the symphony) and am now condemned to spend today and tomorrow catching up on work. If you are in town and don't know what to do with yourself, however, there is hardly a better show to catch this weekend!