Simon Sinfonieta Tonight–And in May

June 6, 2009

I am looking forward to attending the Simon Sinfonietta concert tonight (7:30 PM at Falmouth Academy).  Robert Wyatt is the piano soloist; he will be playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major. Also on the program is Telemann’s Concerto for 3 Horns in D Major, and Respighi’s “The Birds.”

It sounds festive–an upbeat way to end the season and/or usher in summer, depending on your perspective, but it is hard to imagine that it will top their May9 All-Haydn Spectacular, which was truly spectacular. The 40-piece Simon Sinfonietta was joined by the 65-person MIT Choir for two dramatic choral works: Te Deum in Honor of the Empress Maria Therese and Missa di Santa Cecilia.


It was grand just walking into the Parish of Christ the King in Mashpee, where this special concert was performed. The orchestra was elevated a few feet above the audience, rather than situated below it, as it is at Falmouth Academy. It looked quite elegant in the grand setting of the church, with the large (and young) choir in three balanced sections behind them. The soloists were positioned behind the orchestra, in front of the choir.

It was just the right setting for Haydn’s glorious music, gloriously performed. The short, but festive Te Deum opened the evening in a cheerful fashion, moving from C major to C minor and back again.

The Missa de Santa Ceclia was the heart of the evening, a 75-minute long mass that embraced a myriad of moods. It was an exhilerating experience, a delight to witness. As Simon wrote in his program notes, the music was presented as a concert, not as the liturgical event  it would have been in Haydn’s time, with the orchestra and choir in a balcony at the rear of the church.

Fortunately for us, the orchestra and choir, and the soloists, were front and center where we could best appreciate them. It was easily one of the best concerts I have been to all year. There was excellent balance between chorus and orchestra, and a great clarity and expressiveness to the voices of the soloists: soprano Mary Thorne, mezzo Alexis Parker, tenor Jason McStoots, and bass Thomas Jones.

The performance must have been very demanding for the orchestra, particularly, but they made it look easy, and swept the audience up in the celebration. I do hope the Sinfonietta will make this sort of performance an annual event.

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