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2009-2010 Season Reviews

Reviews are listed in reverse order, from the more recent programs (April 2010) to the start of the season (September 2009).

Orlando’s Madness (April 2010)

“I left the theatre in an odd state of grace as I marveled at the newness of finding something so exquisitely beautiful on a random Tuesday night. While this is their last performance of Orlando, Loni better start devising new recipes for cheap eats, as I’ve purchased tickets for their 2010-2011season.”

Cy Ashley Webb, Stark Silver Creek (Apr. 14, 2010)

“As is clear from watching Music Director Nicholas McGegan bounce around the podium, Handel rocks.”

Leah Garchik, San Francisco Chronicle (Apr. 14, 2010)

“The chariot, cloud, and eagle stage machines were gone. So were the genies, fountains, and caverns, and the lush period costumes. But despite the bare set and the singers’ minimally modified concert dress, the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra’s semi-staged performance of Handel’s Orlando (1733) still managed to conjure up fireworks.”

Adeline Mueller, MusicalCriticism.com (Apr. 13, 2010)

“It was a good thing that the band was so perfectly in sync, because we were reliant on them, in this magic opera, to provide all the special effects that would usually come from machines and backdrops in theater productions.”

Jonathan Rhodes Lee, San Francisco Classical Voice (Apr. 13, 2010)

“The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra has always excelled in the music of Handel, and the acclaimed early music orchestra scored another hit over the weekend with Orlando, one of the composer’s most daring and virtuosic operas… The hall was filled for Sunday’s performance, and as McGegan, the singers and the orchestra took their bows, the crowd jumped to its feet and cheered. What a way to end the season; once again, Philharmonia Baroque and Handel made a formidable team.”

Georgia Rowe, San Jose Mercury/Contra Costa Times/Oakland Tribune (Apr. 12, 2010)

“Where the performance came most powerfully to life was in the performances of soprano Dominique Labelle and mezzo-soprano Diana Moore, as the lovers at the center of the story. Labelle, who has been a superb regular with Philharmonia for years (she sang the title role in that 2005 Atalanta), added yet another page to her roster of successes as Angelica, the Queen of Cathay.”

Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle (Apr. 10, 2010)

“The audience left feeling that all very much is “right with the world” of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and that most of us are probably looking forward to the coming season, when the ensemble celebrates its 30th anniversary.”

Stephen Smoliar, SF Classical Music Examiner blog (Apr. 9, 2010)

The French Suite in Europe (March 2010)

“What rang in all our ears as we left the hall that evening were the sounds of the brass players. Simply put, I’ve never heard Philharmonia’s natural horns in better form than they were in this concert; that most beloved of all Handel’s orchestral pieces — the “Alla Hornpipe” from the G-major suite — left me grinning from ear to ear.”

Jonathan Rhodes Lee, San Francisco Classical Voice (Mar. 7, 2010)

An Elegant Romance (February 2010)

“Music director Nicholas McGegan prefaced the concert with a few words about the attempts at the historical accuracy on display… All very interesting, but the real test came in performance. And nothing affirmed the power of this approach like the splendid performance of the Serenade No. 1 in D that occupied the first half of the program… Avoiding the sleek, sometimes impersonal quality that can often seep into modern renditions, [McGegan] embraced every opportunity to give the music a musky physicality – especially in the outer movements, whose rhythmic force was arresting.”

Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle (Feb. 16, 2010)

“Much was splendid. The Serenade, in particular, is a work calculated to bring out all that’s irresistible in McGegan’s conducting — the boisterous energy, the humor, the glee. He was clearly having the time of his life, and the orchestra responded in kind.”

Michelle Dulak Thomson, San Francisco Classical Voice (Feb. 12, 2010)

The Passion of Dido (November 2009)

“The ingredients for a memorable concert performance of Purcell’s compact opera Dido and Aeneas were in place – and they didn’t let us down.”

Richard S. Ginell, Los Angeles Times (Nov. 13, 2009)

“Just about everything about Thursday’s Philharmonia Baroque “Passion of Dido” concert at Herbst Theatre was extraordinary. … What was unexpected came before the opera [Dido and Aeneas]… the brief, utterly simple ‘Hear My Prayer, O Lord.’ That’s when it happened, the unexpected, beyond the big names and even bigger performances. This is when time stopped.”

Janos Gereben, San Francisco Classical Voice (Nov. 10, 2009)

“As wonderful as she was, the evening was decidedly not about Susan Graham. It was a program of glorious music by Britain’s favorite native-born son, presented by one of the world’s great period instrument groups. When Dido urged us to remember her, the sentiment was surely superfluous. Sunday’s concert was hardly an event that we were apt to forget.”

Jonathan Rhodes Lee, San Francisco Classical Voice (Nov. 9, 2009)

“Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, making her first appearance with the period ensemble, sang Dido eloquently and with a masterful command of style. None of it, though, compared with the depth and directness of the final lament, ‘When I am laid in Earth.’ Here Graham mustered all of her tonal splendor and dramatic focus to provide an arresting picture of a woman – and queen – at the end of her tether… The final cry, ‘Remember me,’ was delivered with a controlled fervor that tallied with Dido’s overarching stateliness, and [conductor Nicholas] McGegan brought tenderness to the elegiac final measures, with their aching, bittersweet harmonies.”

Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle (Nov. 7, 2009)

“Philharmonia Baroque and Nicholas McGegan, its music director, have his number — they play Purcell’s music really well… [The performance’s] real stars were the Philharmonia Chorale (every number leaped out like a 3-D projection in a two-dimensional world) and the orchestra, its playing remarkably unified and rhythmically rousing.”

Richard Scheinen, San Jose Mercury/Contra Costa Times/Oakland Tribune (Nov. 6, 2009)

The Concerto – An Adversarial Friendship (October 2009)

“Over the years, the musicians [of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra] have developed a refined sense of ensemble and uncommon unity of purpose. Even so, this program, with [Elizabeth] Wallfisch leading from the first-violin position, seemed to elicit a particularly dynamic response from the group.”

Georgia Rowe, San Francisco Classical Voice (Oct. 11, 2009)

Apotheosis of the Dance (September 2009)

“In an exuberant performance, this Baroque orchestra gave a quintessentially romantic performance of some mainstays of the classical repertory: passionate and full-bodied, with a strikingly lush sound and unrelenting energy.”

Joseph Sargent, San Francisco Classical Voice (Sept. 12, 2009)

“If asked to characterize last night’s performance by Philharmonia Baroque with British cellist Steven Isserlis in a single word, I wouldn’t hesitate to reply. The word is joy.”

Emily Morgan, SF Classical Music Examiner blog (Sept. 16, 2009)

“Under Nicholas McGegan’s direction, this drama plays out as any drama should, leaving us all on the edge of our respective seats wondering what will happen next, no matter how many times we may have previously heard this music.”

Stephen Smoliar, SF Classical Music Examiner blog (Sept. 11, 2009)

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