Nicholas McGegan Steps Outside His Usual 18th-Century Focus

15/05/2018

Respighi, Handel, Locatelli, Rossini, Stravinsky: Peter Richard Conte (organ), Philadelphia Orchestra / Nicholas McGegan (conductor), Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, 5.5.2018. (BJ)

Nicholas McGegan (c) Steve Sherman

Respighi – Ancient Air and Dances for the Lute, Suite No.1
Handel – Organ Concerto in F major, Op.4 No.4
Locatelli – Concerto grosso in F major, Op.7 No.4
Rossini – Overture to La Cenerentola
Stravinsky – Suite from Pulcinella

On your way to hear (or, in American parlance, ‘to see’) a concert conducted by Nicholas McGegan, you can be sure of three things: that the experience will be artistically satisfying; that it will demonstrate a close familiarity with ‘Historically Informed’ performance practice; and that — unless the program consists exclusively of tragic or at least deeply serious works — it will be a lot of fun.

This particular concert lived up to all three such expectations (if perhaps, especially in the absence of one of the maestro’s convivial and often hilarious spoken introductions, the fun element was a shade less prominent than usual). It also ranged somewhat beyond McGegan’s habitual concentration on 18th-century repertoire. It would admittedly be stretching a point to regard the first and last works on the program, composed respectively in 1917 and in 1919-20, as 20th-century music: the Respighi is an affectionate reworking of pieces dating back to the 16th century, and the Stravinsky is a more radical transformation of music by Pergolesi, whose short life (a meager 26 years) was lived firmly within 18th-century bounds. But the Rossini overture took us forward to 1917, and so we were left with just the Handel and Locatelli concertos as authentic voices from the 18th century.

Those two works were accorded performances that combined crisp rhythm with warm string tone. Peter Richard Conte contributed a characteristically lively solo to the Handel. Here McGegan was emphatically and predictably in his element: asked in an interview some years ago to explain his passion for Handel, he responded, ‘He was so human — Bach is a bit too spiritual for me’ — a view of the matter with which, as an inveterate agnostic humanist, I confess I heartily concur, Bach being a great composer about God, and Handel being a great composer about men and women.

The Respighi suite exuded much of that far-too-often-underrated composer’s irresistible charm. The Stravinsky was quite sufficiently entertaining, with Nitzan Haroz let appropriately loose on the trombone’s rude interjections. That element in Pulcinella is certainly irreverent enough to raise a laugh from the audience. But it was the Rossini piece that—though it doesn’t rival the Gazza laddra overture’s sophisticated wit—came closest in my judgment to pure fun in the rousing performance that McGegan drew from the marvelous Philadelphia Orchestra.

Bernard Jacobson

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Northampton’s 13th Malcolm Arnold Festival – 13 to 14 October 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House’s Exciting 2018/19 Cinema Season __________________________________
  • NEW! See Pop-Up Opera’s La Tragédie de Carmen this Autumn __________________________________
  • NEW! This October Carlos Acosta Returns to London to Celebrate Thirty Years in Dance __________________________________
  • NEW! Oxford Chamber Music Festival October 2018 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 and Beyond __________________________________
  • NEW! Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
 in 2018/2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Sunday International Concerts Series in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! Salzburg Whitsun Festival 7 – 10 June 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bolshoi Ballet 2018/19 UK Cinema Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018-2019 Geneva Grand Theâtre Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Hallé Season in Manchester __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 CBSO at Symphony Hall, Birmingham __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 BBC NOW in Cardiff and Swansea __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Opera in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! LMTO Bring Camelot Back to the West End for the First Time in 30 Years on 6 October __________________________________
  • NEW! JACK BUCKLEY’S MEMORIES OF LINDSAY KEMP (1938-2018) __________________________________
  • NEW! THE GESUALDO SIX IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • NEW! The Roman River Music Festival Returns This September __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Appreciation Talks this Autumn from Helen Astrid __________________________________
  • NEW! TENOR NICHOLAS PHAN IN CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTOPHER SALLON __________________________________
  • NEW! THE PIANIST GEORGE HARLIONO IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! A Major Work by Stanford to be Premiered – 99 Years Late! __________________________________
  • NEW! THE CONDUCTOR ALEXANDER SLADKOVSKY IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! THE TENOR RUSSELL THOMAS IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • NEW! RAFAL BLECHACZ IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! MARKUS POSCHNER IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month