APRIL 2015: ROSSINI’S THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT
“Uproarious and beautifully sung… an unalloyed delight.” – Joshua Kosman writing in the San Francisco Chronicle
“As the nubile Fanni, Jacqueline Piccolino revelled in a light flexible soprano; Brian Thorsett’s nimble tenor was steeped in ardour as her amour. Rossini’s first great character role, the Canadian Slook, come to claim his bride, received a hilarious performance from baritone Efrain Solis.” – Allan Ulrich writing in The Financial Times
“Peerless… utterly delightful.” – Steven Winn writing for San Francisco Classical Voice
“Naughtily delicious” – James MacBean in the Berkeley Daily Planet
“Soprano Jaqueline Piccolino (Fannì) has lots of punch behind that sweet voice and her clarity was well matched with Brian Thorsett’s equally sweet and full tenor.” – Jaime Robles writing at Repeat Performances
MARCH 2015: RACHEL PODGER AND VIVALDI
“This was a genuinely exciting night of music, carried off by the fine Philharmonia players with a singleness of purpose, bright, full-bodied tone that ran from sweet to sinewy as required, and supple rhythmic and dynamic control.” -Steven Winn writing for San Francisco Classical Voice
“Podger clearly wanted her audience to appreciate the uniqueness of each concerto she selected, and there was no doubting the differences that distinguished them.” – Stephen Smoliar writing at Examiner.com
FEBRUARY 2015: THE COUSINS BACH
“McGegan conducted a superb performance of this alluring score, with plenty of rhythmic gusto and instrumental color. The Philharmonia Chorale, led by Bruce Lamott, contributed singing of potent clarity, and there were fine instrumental solo turns — none more dazzling than trumpeter John Thiessen’s magnificent display of precision and tonal incisiveness during the aria ‘Da, da will ich dir bezahlen.’” – Joshua Kosman writing in the San Francisco Chronicle
“If the Chorale was the musical backbone of the concert, the Orchestra was its heart and lungs. Together they made the soul of the music come alive.” – Niels Swinkels writing at San Francisco Classical Voice
REVIEWS OF HAYDN SYMPHONIES NOS. 57, 67, AND 68
“The performances bring out both the vitality and endless creativity of the composer’s writing… McGegan and the orchestra dispatch them with grace and flair.” – Joshua Kosman writing in the San Francisco Chronicle
“There’s plenty of jollity to be found here. Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, led by Nicholas McGegan, delivers fresh and stylish performances.” – WQXR
“Each symphony has something special and characteristic to offer, and each gives McGegan and his ensemble an opportunity to display their musicianship and virtuosity… Haydn lovers rejoice.” – David Hurwitz atClassics Today
“Nicholas McGegan and his Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra capture the spirit of Haydn with perfection.”
– Leslie Wright at MusicWeb International
“Expertly performed grown up music any classical music tourist can listen to without fear, this is a superb gateway drug to great classical glories if there ever was one. Simply wonderful music by a crew working hard to be the last word on the subject for quite some time.” – Midwest Record
“Nicholas McGegan and his ensemble of original instruments capture the incisive clarity of Haydn’s often audacious symphonic inventions.” –Audiophile Audition
DECEMBER 2014: A JOYOUS CHRISTMAS
“From a historical perspective, one of the weakest career moves a composer can make is to be a contemporary of J.S. Bach. Wednesday’s concert confirmed yet again what a small flood of recordings and performances since the mid-20th century has suggested — that Zelenka was a composer of considerable skill and versatility… The ‘Christmas Mass’ bristles with inventive writing.” – Joshua Kosman writing in the San Francisco Chronicle
“The absolutely most joyful contribution to the ensemble’s performance on Friday night was delivered by the amazing Philharmonia Chorale… The magnificence of that performance should be described in superlatives: their voices together created a single warm, flexible, ultra-responsive and alert instrument, with superb diction and phrasing and a deep understanding and expressive, rich command of the intention and meaning of text and music.”
– Niels Swinkels writing for San Francisco Classical Voice
“This is the sort of music that goes perfectly with Music Director Nicholas McGegan’s highly energized approach to conducting. The rich string section was enhanced by a pair of flutes and timpani, as well as the trumpets; and McGegan’s command of these richly sonorous resources was energizing, even when the rhetoric calmed down a bit. The instrumental sonorities also blended in perfectly with the harmonies of Bruce Lamott’s Philharmonia Chorale and the four soloists for the composition, soprano Dominique Labelle, countertenor Christopher Ainslie, tenor Thomas Cooley, and bass-baritone Dashon Burton, whose commanding lower register provided the primary recognition of the solemnity of the Mass celebration.” – Stephen Smoliar writing for Examiner.com
NOVEMBER 2014: ANDREAS SCHOLL SINGS BACH AND HANDEL
“Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra have been a single performing unit, with a single style, for so many decades now that it can be startling to hear what they sound like apart. The first moments of Friday night’s fine concert under guest conductor Julian Wachner brought just such a surprise… The opening strains of the Sinfonia from Bach’s Cantata No. 42 were recognizably the work of this orchestra, with its richly colored string playing and pungent woodwinds. But Wachner’s fluid, rounded approach to rhythm and phrasing could hardly have been more different from the briskly clipped character that has always been McGegan’s hallmark.” – Joshua Kosman writing in the San Francisco Chronicle
“It was a blast.” – Niels Swinkels writing for San Francisco Classical Voice
“This was an evening that favored solo voices, both vocal and instrumental. The soloist who received the most attention was visiting countertenor Andreas Scholl. He accounted for Handel’s share of the program with selections from Giulio Cesare and Rodelinda… Each of these was a highly personal aria, and Scholl found just the right level of assertiveness to fit the character of each of them. His chemistry with both Wachner and the instrumentalists was always right on target, while delivering all of the required expressiveness for the most dramatic selections on the program. During the second half of the evening, he transplanted that expressiveness into the sacred domain with Bach’s solo alto cantata Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust.” – Stephen Smoliar writing at Examiner.com
“Had there been a Baroque era Rat Pack, Mr. Scholl would have been its Dean Martin — elegantly handsome, charismatic, with a suavely mischievous edge. More importantly, his voice is astonishing. Scholl’s contribution, arias from Handel’s Giulio Cesare and Rodelinda, showcased the singer’s vocal control and emotional range. In Cesare’s ‘Va tacito e nascosto,’ Scholl employed delicate but deliberate gestures to underscore the veiled threat in the metaphor of a predator hunting its prey. In Bertarido’s lament to an absent lover in ‘Dove sei,’ the singer conveyed the king’s emotional predicament with a subtle, aching intensity of tone. Finally, in Cesare’s ‘Aure, deh, per pietà,’ Scholl’s voice filled the room to its rafters, begging for comfort with stirring lucidity.” – Karen Baumer, writing the winning Everyone’s a Critic Audience Review Prize as part of the 2014 Rubin Institute
OCTOBER 2014: STEVEN ISSERLIS, BOCCHERINI, AND HAYDN
“Isserlis displayed some extraordinarily angelic playing in Bach’s concerto. After a bright and upbeat opening Allegro, he painted the meandering melody of the Largo in such magnificently mournful colors that the ensuingAllegro assai finale was greeted with an audible sigh of relief from the audience.” – Niels Swinkels writing for San Francisco Classical Voice
“There never seems to be a shortage of wit in [Isserlis’s] performances.” – Stephen Smoliar writing at Examiner.com
PHILHARMONIA BAROQUE ORCHESTRA AND CLASSICAL KDFC PRESENT SESSIONS: THE NIGHTS OF MADRID
“The Philharmonia performance of the [C.P.E. Bach] concerto for violoncello was exuberant, infused with vitality. The entire first and third movements were incredibly clean, clear, and punctuated with fully developed musical gestures that built to a totality that made some part of the universe better. You can expect no more from music.” – Cy Ashley Webb reviewing SESSIONS: The Nights of Madrid for Stark Insider
PRAISE FOR TESEO (HIGHLIGHTS), THE NEW RECORDING FROM PHILHARMONIA
“Breathtakingly gorgeous… Dominique Labelle’s irascible sorceress Medea steals the show.” – Gramophone
HANDEL’S TESEO AT TANGLEWOOD AND LINCOLN CENTER
“Vibrant and beautifully sung” – The Boston Globe
“Wickedly funny and touching” – The New York Times
“McGegan led his orchestra with incisiveness and zest” – Boston Classical Review
“The cast had Handel pioneers – Dominique Labelle and Drew Minter – who still sound wonderful… No stroke of musical characterization went unheard.” – The Philadelphia Inquirer
HANDEL’S ACIS AND GALATEA WITH THE MARK MORRIS DANCE GROUP (LINCOLN CENTER)
“Conductor Nicholas McGegan set the mood with graceful, unhurried tempos and transparent orchestral textures, and the Philharmonia Chorale, 18 voices total, brought to the many varied choruses just the right youthful sound.” – The New York Observer
“Mr McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale reveal all the textures with which Mozart enriches Handel (those clarinets!) and deepens the sophistication underlying the pastoral.” – The New York Times
“Nicholas McGegan led a spirited performance, and the robust chorus was especially skilled at articulating the musical phrases and English text.” –The Wall Street Journal
“The choreographer Mark Morris calls the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra ‘the car that parks itself.’ This week it pulls into Lincoln Center to perform two early Handel operas at the Mostly Mozart Festival: the English masque ‘Acis and Galatea,’ fully choreographed with singers sharing the stage with dancers from the Mark Morris Dance Group, and a concert version of ‘Teseo’.” –
The New York Times
“A new jewel in Morris’s crown” – The New Yorker
HANDEL’S ACIS AND GALATEA WITH THE MARK MORRIS DANCE GROUP (BERKELEY)
“Friday’s performance, led with devotion and flair by Nicholas McGegan, was a musical marvel… the Orchestra’s playing was at once robust and suave. Leading the cast was soprano Sherezade Panthaki as Galatea, a regular Philharmonia soloist who outdid herself in a performance of cool tonal beauty and technical precision; her Act One aria, “As when the dove,” with its showy vocal leaps, was the embodiment of effortless grace.”- Joshua Kosman writing in the San Francisco Chronicle.
“Mr. McGegan and the Philharmonia forces were a constant source of life and sensuous color.”- Alastair Macaulay writing in the New York Times.
“Part of the enormous pleasure of this production is in the effusively engaging conducting of McGegan and his fine period instrument orchestra and chorus. Morris’s choreography functions as a kind of ear training. Acis and Galatea has never, in my experience, sounded better anywhere than it did Friday night.” – Mark Swed writing in the Los Angeles Times.
“Under Nicholas McGegan’s brisk, canny tempi, the 31 players of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra brought a burnished sonority and delectable stylistic flourishes to their task. In the pit, the Philharmonia Chorale produced a robust sound.” – Allan Ulrich writing in the Financial Times.
“Had an actual fire broken out at Zellerbach Hall, no one would have rushed the exits as long as the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, under the rousing direction of Nicholas McGegan, remained playing in the pit. Their glorious rendering of the music, with terrific assist from the Philharmonia Chorale, had us transfixed throughout.” – Carla Escoda writing for the Huffington Post.
“‘Acis’ is closer to a verdant tone poem than an opera, and its smaller scale felt sized right for an onstage collaboration with dance. Here, dancers and singers thread together seamlessly, traipsing through the mountain and the plain together, the dancers catching the lovers in their froth. In never letting the dance be reduced to a kinetic superscript, Morris triumphs.” – Ann Murphy writing in the San Jose Mercury News.
“Morris has beautifully balanced this pastoral’s tenderness, sorrow, and humor to create a memorable confection.” – Janice Berman writing for San Francisco Classical Voice.