Haydn high jinks, and serious Baroque works, with Koopman in San Francisco

09/11/2019

United StatesUnited States Jean-Féry Rebel, J.S. Bach, Haydn: Alexander Barantschik (violin), San Francisco Symphony / Ton Koopman (conductor). Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco. 7.11.2019. (HS)

Alexander Barantschik (c) Terrence McCarthy

Jean-Féry Rebel – ‘Chaos, from Les Élémens

J.S. Bach – Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor; Orchestral Suite No.4

Haydn – Symphony No.100 in G major ‘Military’

As open to interpretation as orchestral music of the Baroque and Classical eras can be, a few aspects prevail, among them crisp articulation, lively tempos, and rhythmic vitality. Played by modern symphony orchestras — whether on original or contemporary instruments — the focus inevitably goes to the dance music that makes up much of the various movements.

That’s true in Bach’s Violin Concerto No.1 and Orchestral Suite No.4 and Haydn’s Symphony No.100 ‘Military’, the centerpieces of this week’s subscription concerts conducted by early music champion Ton Koopman. Heard in the first of three performances the most compelling were the slower sections.

In the concerto, the expressive Andante emerged with consummate shading and sonority. Soloist Alexander Barantschik, the orchestra’s concertmaster, drew ravishing tone from his Guarneri and articulated a variety of subtle nuances to Bach’s languid figures. He and Koopman raised the level of tension gradually and let it resolve with a sigh.

The shorter outer movements, though taken at a speedy enough clip, lacked the sprightliness and vivacity that should mark this nimble music.

These contrasts were even more pronounced in the orchestral suite. It delivered the majesty and brilliant color of the broad French-style overture, due in large part to the three Baroque trumpets led by principal Mark Inouye. But when it moved on to the dance music, the energy flagged. The double Bourée missed the bounce, a Gavotte thumped a little too heavily, and a double Minuet didn’t quite float as it might have done. The finale, titled ‘Réjouissance’ (‘rejoice’), seemed only mildly happy.

Other elements were solid enough, with accurate intonation and impressive attention to dynamics and rhythmic steadiness, making for amiable but forgettable readings in all the Baroque works.

The Haydn opened with a sonorous Adagio and tripped lightly enough through the first-movement Allegro. Things perked up the most in the second movement Allegretto, especially when the three percussionists, led by principal Jacob Nissly on bass drum and switch, marched on stage for their musical entrance, adding the triangle and cymbals of Janissary music that give the symphony its nickname. That and their re-entrance in the finale were the jauntiest moments.

Perhaps Koopman’s focus on the more serious-sounding aspects stemmed from the opening, the six-minute ‘Chaos’ from Les Élémens by Jean Féry Rebel. A contemporary of François Couperin, Rebel opened this work with the orchestra of strings, flutes, bassoon, tenor drum and harpsichord intoning all seven notes of a D minor scale at once. The dissonance of this tone cluster, believed to be first notated in the history of music, was a startling and unnerving way to begin a Baroque- and Classical-era concert. Gradually the movement pointed toward greater clarity as it unfurled the clashing, overlapping gestures representing the four ‘elements’ of earth, air, water, and fire.

Koopman and the troops rendered this seriousness with appropriate intensity. Too bad the musicians had a bit of trouble livening up the dances in the latter works.

Harvey Steiman

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Surrey’s Grange Park Opera in 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Highgate International Chamber Music Festival’s Beethoven 249 in November __________________________________
  • NEW! The Leeds Lieder Concert Series 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Anjali Dance Company Genius UK Tour 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Usher Hall 2019-2020 Orchestral Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycles __________________________________
  • NEW! Ex Cathedra’s 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Geneva Grand Théâtre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2019-20 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden __________________________________
  • NEW! City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera House in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Opera in 2019-2020 and New Artistic Director __________________________________
  • UPDATED! ENB in 2019-2020 and Opening of their New London City Island Home __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music and Other Events at the Southbank Centre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Cleveland Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music at the Barbican in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Carnegie Hall 2019-2020 Season Highlights __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Search S&H

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet’s 70th Anniversary Gala Performances – 17 & 18 January 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Martin Yates and RSNO to give world premiere of The Future by Ralph Vaughan Williams __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR HERVÉ NIQUET INTERVIEWED ABOUT GRÉTRY’S RICHARD, COEUR DE LION __________________________________
  • NEW! Abay Kazakh State Opera and Ballet Theatre at the London Coliseum on 17 November __________________________________
  • NEW! SOPRANO ANGELA GHEORGHIU IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • NOW REVIEWED! MATTHEW BOURNE’S ROMEO AND JULIET IN CINEMAS FROM 22 OCTOBER __________________________________
  • NEW! CELLIST JOHANNES MOSER IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • CHORUS MASTER STEPHEN DOUGHTY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • REVIEWED! Ron Howard’s Pavarotti in Cinemas 13 July (Preview) and Nationwide (15 July) __________________________________
  • MULTI-FACETED MUSICIAN JOY LISNEY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • ‘MUSICAL MAGIC’: AN INTERVIEW WITH VIOLINIST HENNING KRAGGERUD __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR THOMAS SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month