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2010-2011 Season Reviews

Haydn’s Creation (April 2011)

“Magnificent performance by Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, the conclusion and the high point of their 30th anniversary season. Leading an expanded performing ensemble in Herbst Theatre, McGegan invested Haydn’s dramatic canvas with plentiful helpings of theatrical flair and sheer celebratory beauty.  McGegan conducted with tenderness and vibrancy, drawing robust and richly colored playing from the orchestra. The Philharmonia Chorale, led by Bruce Lamott, made a glorious noise as the heavenly hosts.”  Read more at

-Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle (April 10, 2011)

“As has been consistently the case, McGegan led his resources with brisk and energetic precision.  No element of Haydn’s inventiveness was lost, whether it involved his many strokes of wit, his sophisticated management of melody and harmony, or his ingenious approaches to instrumentation.  The diction of both soloists and chorus was excellent, making the libretto text in the program book almost unnecessary.  Most importantly, the overall sense of balance among all of these resources never faltered.  No detail was neglected, and the function of each of those details was always evidently clear.”  Read more at

-Stephen Smoliar, (April 9, 2011)

Zheng Cao (March 2011)

Cao brought “rueful grace to the first song and winning vivacity to the third. She also sounded fine in a pair of Handel arias…  Her elegant rendition of “Che faro senza Euridice” was the centerpiece of a set of selections from Gluck’s “Orfeo ed Euridice,” which began with a superb account of the “Dance of the Blessed Spirits” featuring flutists Stephen Schultz and Mindy Rosenfeld.  McGegan and the orchestra brought energy and clarity to the rest of the program.”  Read more on SF

-Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle (March 7, 2011)

Gabriele Cassone (February 2011)

“Dazzling nineteenth-century sounds from Philharmonia Baroque…. Cassone…delivered a masterful performance… The unique character of each work was excellently served by the sonorities of the Philharmonia Baroque period instruments.”  Read more on

-Stephen Smoliar, (Feb. 12, 2011)

“Cassone’s elegant, mellifluous performance was a spellbinding affair… Engrossing concert.” Read more on SF Gate.

-Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle (Feb. 14, 2011)

David Daniels (January 2011)

“David Daniels’ voice is voluptuous…[i]t lusciously rides on long streams of breath, making curlicues in the air, or following stepped ornamentations toward release in a single light-filled word — way up in the countertenor’s extraordinarily high range.” Read more on Mercury News.

-Richard Scheinin, Mercury News (Jan. 16, 2011)

“Animated and friendly, the melody of the first moment [of Telemann’s concerto] was thrown back and forth between horns and violin – and in a small way made some part of the universe right.” Read more at Stark Insider.

-Cy Ashley Webb, Stark Insider (Jan. 18, 2011)

“[Daniels] sang with warmth and sweetness.”  Read more on the Opera Tattler blog.
-The Opera Tattler (Jan. 16, 2011)

Handel’s Messiah (December 2010)

“Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra’s performance Saturday, at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley, was a triumph. Music Director Nicholas McGegan’s pacing, from the very beginning, connected recitative to aria to chorus in a grand narrative sweep. The chorus and orchestra sang and played as one instrument.” Read more on SFCV

-Anna Carol Dudley, San Francisco Classical Voice (Dec. 4, 2010)

“I was at Sunday’s Philharmonia Baroque performance at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley too, and I, in fact, was glad that I’d torn myself away from “Boardwalk Empire” – I watched a later broadcast that night – for the exhilarating experience. The concert was followed by cheering and stomping I hadn’t heard since the Giants won the series; the only thing that was missing was high fives.” Read more of Leah Garchik’s column on

-Leah Garchik, San Francisco Chronicle (Dec.10, 2010)

“All of [the] soloists approached their accompagnato and recitative passages with a keen sensitivity to the act of narration, relating texts that we had all heard more times than can be enumerated as if they were telling a story that really mattered (perhaps more today than when we had first heard that story).” Read more on
-Stephen Smoliar, (Dec.4 2010)

“[W]hile other versions overwhelm you with the majesty of this piece, laying voices on instrument to create a wall of sound, [the balance between voices and orchestra] remained distinct, complementing rather than overwhelming each other. This made last night’s performance a more intimate one, drawing the listener in.” Read more on

-Cy Ashley Webb, StarkInsider (Dec. 5 ,2010)

“…the Philharmonia Chorale, which continues to grow and flourish under the leadership of chorus director Bruce Lamott. “Messiah” offers the chorus one of its meatiest and most brilliant assignments, and the 24-member ensemble responded superbly.” Read more on SFGate

-Joshua Kosman, Chronicle Music Critic (Dec. 8, 2010)

“Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra’s latest offering of Händel’s Messiah was very jolly…The overall impression was that of airy lightness, though all could be heard.” Read more on the Opera Tattler blog.

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (November 2010)

“And in these fierce and shapely performances, led by Music Director Nicholas McGegan and featuring vibrant solo playing from violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock, there was no mistaking the changes in both climate and sensibility across the course of a year. McGegan brought rhythmic zest to the music, and Blumenstock dispatched her quadruple assignment with technical flair and melodic elegance.” Read more on SFGate

-Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle (Nov. 9, 2010)

“The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Music Director Nicolas McGegan breathed life into this music, in richly satisfying and often surprising ways, in San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre on Friday night.” Read more on SFCV

-Jonathan Rhodes Lee, San Francisco Classical Voice (Nov. 5, 2010), EarlyMusicNews (Nov. 11, 2010)

“Composed in 1735, the score features a lively duet for two violins, and the orchestra’s Carla Moore and Katherine Kyme dispatched it with sweet, juicy tone. The tender, slow movement showed McGegan and his ensemble at their finest; then again, these are musicians who have worked together for years (this orchestra, unlike many others, has had a very low turnover rate) and always seem to listen, respond, and bring out the distinctive character of each piece they play with consummate flair.” Read more on

– Georgia Rowe, Mercury (Nov. 7, 2010)

“Nicholas McGegan, Music Director of Philharmonia Baroque, prepared a rather innovative approach to one of the favorites of the Baroque repertoire for the third concert in his ensemble’s 30th season.” Read more on

– Stephen Smoliar, SF Classical Music Examiner blog (Nov. 6, 2010)

Bach’s Wedding Cantata (October 2010)

“He [Lars Ulrik Mortensen] opened the program with the BWV 1066 C major orchestral suite; and, while he provided harpsichord continuo, he made it clear that the ensemble was the focus of attention. This is one of Bach’s longer collections of dance movements, and Mortensen clearly caught the Terpsichorean spirit of each of them.” Read more on

-Stephen Smoliar, SF Classical Music Examiner blog (Oct. 16, 2010)

“Mortensen also bonded with the Philharmonia Baroque players in an impressive way. This artist’s credits in early music are extensive;” Read more on

-Georgia Rowe Mercury (Oct 16, 2010)

“We’re incredibly fortunate because this time the PBO brings us harpsichordist Lars Ulrik Mortensen. In equal measures magician and musician, Mortensen held the entire audience transfixed before gently setting them down at the end of the evening, only to look around at each other, mouthing the word “wow.”” Read more on

-Cy Ashley Webb (Oct. 18, 2010)

Robert Levin plays Mozart (September 2010)

“To hear Mozart played in period style, the only way you could do much better than Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra would be to add the fortepianist Robert Levin into the mix – which is exactly what the orchestra’s splendid season opener has to offer.” Read more on SFGate

-Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle (Sept. 28, 2010)

“[McGegan’s] conducting gestures are often a bit nonconformist, but they always clearly reflect the musical material and [his] demands on his orchestra… And all of it inspired the players to paint a portrait of Mozart that is more in line with the letters and reminiscences about the man and his performance style than the sanitized mainstream Mozart we’ve come to expect. The results were never inelegant, but neither were they ever overrefined. In short, they were scintillating.” Read more on SFCV

-Jonathan Rhodes Lee, San Francisco Classical Voice (Sept. 28, 2010)

“There is an endearing fearlessness – Levin used the word ‘danger’- in going up on stage not knowing what to expect, what cadenzas will fill the concerto or what melodies the audience will throw at him, so we have to salute Levin for his courage and his confidence in his technical abilities. And pulling it off! Live performance is about the unexpected, the chemistry of the instant. Levin chided “cookie cutter” performances, and his was definitely a concert that stands out.” Read more on SFist

-Cedric, (Sept. 25, 2010)

“McGegan’s interpretation elevated [the incidental music from Thamos, King of Egypt] beyond the merely “incidental.”  Much of this may be attributed to his approach to conducting, which seems to be more focused on teasing out the rhetorical impact of every phrase… The result is that McGegan can endow even the slightest phrase with a significance that seizes the attention, leaving the listener wondering what the next phrase will bring… It is what makes Philharmonic Baroque experiences so exciting.” Read more on

-Stephen Smoliar, SF Classical Music Examiner blog (Sept. 25, 2010)

“It was a stunning opener for the Philharmonia Baroque’s thirtieth-anniversary season, one in which Mozart’s music sparkled with the vivacity and chamber-ensemble texture for which Nicholas McGegan’s band is renowned.” Read more on Musical Criticism

-Adeline Mueller, (Sept. 29, 2010)

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