Spring and summer came short and sweet to Faneuil Hall on Saturday, April 16, on the wings of the Boston Classical Orchestra. Haydn, Glazunov, Barber and Beethoven — his sunshiny Eighth Symphony — brightened the day, all heard in the most brilliant of colors stemming from the baton of Steven Lipsitt, the orchestra’s music director. I quickly forgot my disappointment on learning that Dominique Labelle, who had been scheduled to sing, would be replaced by Kendra Colton, whom I had never heard before; but I surely want to hear again after last night’s performance of one of my all-time favorites, Barber’s Knoxville, Summer of 1915.
Haydn’s Introduction to “Spring” (from The Seasons oratorio) sounded a fine classical kind of flourishing expected of the BCO, its tempo just right for getting the concert off on the right foot. Glazunov’s “Spring” and “Summer” (from The Seasons ballet) shot up with an open-air hue infused by the orchestra’s so young at heart take on the Russian’s seasoned work. Winds especially were tuned to the score’s shadings.
Barber’s Knoxville, Summer of 1915 kept on pace and, if it had not been for the drenching acoustics of the hall, it might very well have had its power of drifting listeners into a purely American place and time: “Now is the night one blue dew” and “On the rough wet grass of the back yard my father and mother have spread quilts.” In soprano Kendra Colton’s delivery there was an innocence that sided naturally with Barber’s extended summer song of the South. Tonal beauty was everywhere and just the right amount of vibrato inflected the various strains of the melody. No fault of her own or that of Lipsitt, the words were often lost. Following the text in the program helps but is no substitute; one aches to hear the picturesque words of James Agee in soaring song. (More warm bodies in the room, I recall, can help to alleviate the problem.)
But yet another bright spot, or two, I should say, popped up on the program. Lipsett first went to the piano to accompany Colton in another one of Barber’s perennials, his Sure on this Shining Night. Next, Lipsett joined with two other clarinetists in tasty reedy rendition of a Beethoven minuet.
One thing for certain, Lipsitt’s energy is never in short supply. He seemed drenched, literally, upon completing the fast moving concert with a high-spirited performance of Beethoven’ s short Symphony No. 8 in F Major, op. 93. Throughout it, he showed us still more of his personality by way of a responding orchestra. Earlier, Lipsitt teased us, saying that “he got out of music and went into conducting.” Boston is all the richer for that!
David Patterson, Professor of Music and former Chairman of the Performing Arts Department at UMass Boston, was recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Award and the Chancellor’s Distinction in Teaching Award. He studied with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen in Paris and holds a PhD from Harvard University. www.notescape.net