in: Reviews

December 18, 2014

BCO Steps Up in the 18th Century

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Mee Hae Ryo (file photo)

Mee Hae Ryo (file photo)

The Boston Classical Orchestra under Steven Lipsitt presented an outstanding Faneuil Hall program last Sunday, featuring Gluck, Haydn and Mozart. It was pleasing to know that what was being played was contemporary music in the building’s early decades.

The program opened with an amiable performance of Gluck’s Overture in D Major, an upbeat work of Allegro, Andante and Presto. The last movement, in three, had an elastic bounce on the first beat. Especially considering the name, it is hard to imagine a more cheerful composer.

Following was Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 2 in D Major, featuring Mee-Hae Ryo, whose playing combines musicality and chops. Haydn was a fine cellist, and Ryo was a worthy advocate. The performance was more leisurely than some, but allowed the music to speak. The second movement Adagio stands out for a cradle-song sweetness, and the final Allegro’s rondo features a delightful walking tune.

After intermission we were treated to a performance ranking with the best of anything I have heard anywhere. The winner of BCO’s first Young Artists Competition, violinist In Mo Yang, has set the bar extraordinarily high for future winners. At 19, he has the goods, and it’s almost impossible to describe how violin and bow seemed an extension of his body, with no difficulty whatsoever no matter how challenging the music. The work he chose, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5, Turkish., can be heard everywhere, starting with countless auditions, yet Yang’s performance was natural and effortless, as if he were hearing the piece for the first time.

The first movement opens with busy orchestral music which the violin interrupts with a soaring, calm rebuke, and then takes up the fast music: “Here, this is the way you do it!” The whole work is a delicious dialogue between violin and ensemble, as though Mozart (who was himself 19 when he wrote it) were playing with an enormous toy box. Yang’s cadenzas were in style and evocative, so he is a historically imaginative musician as well as technically brilliant. In the second movement, the orchestra was a touch too loud, but gorgeous suspensions in the oboes could be heard. The concluding Rondeau features a “Turkish” march which has a menacing chromaticism foreshadowing Don Giovanni, and the final cadenza an almost Till Eulenspiegel naughtiness.

After the standing ovation, Yang came back to perform the Largo from the third Bach Violin Sonata. One of the difficult things here is to carve out the individual lines from the double stops, but it was as though two completely different violin lines were housed in the same instrument—a true duet and at the same time totally unified. If this young man records the Bach, it will be a must-have album.

Mo Yang (file photo)

Mo Yang (file photo)

Written to welcome the composer’s patron Prince Esterhazy home from a visit to Paris and Versailles, Haydn’s Symphony No. 35 served to honor the BCO’s 35th season at Faneuil Hall.. In spots the horn section had difficulty with the wicked high parts, but it seemed like a fall by an Olympic skater trying a quadruple lutz: sometimes it’s just not your night. Other times they sounded glorious, golden and sinuous, more than earning their bow.

The BLO really shone in the symphony; overall, the concert was one of the best of the season.

Elisa Birdseye, executive director of the Boston Chamber Ensemble, is an active freelance violist and principal violist of the New Bedford Symphony. Additionally, she has worked as the general manager of the New England Philharmonic and Boston Musica

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