Posted: 4:01 p.m. Tuesday, March 13, 2018
The Palm Beach Symphony’s performance Monday night was vibrant and glorious.
Maestro Ramón Tebar led the orchestra in two major works by George Frideric Handel and Antonio Vivaldi before a sold-out audience at The Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach. The beautiful cathedral was the perfect setting to not only hear but also see this first-rate performance by the symphony.
The Rev. James Harlan gave a warm welcome to the audience and then Tebar took the stage and immediately electrified the room with the opening notes of Dixit Dominus, a setting of Psalm 110, written by Handel in 1770 while he was living in Italy. The work is a large-scale piece for five vocal soloists, five-part chorus, strings and continuo.
The tempos were sprightly, the articulation of the orchestra immaculate and the maestro shaped each phrase with ease and elegance as though creating each movement in the moment. Nothing sounded stale or matter of fact.
The chamber choir was prepared by Patricia Fleitas, professor and chair of vocal and choral activities at Florida Atlantic University. The soloists were not named in the program, but of note was the baritone featured in movement six, Dominus a dextris tuis. The dynamic range of the orchestra was stunning, moving from fortissimo to pianissimo instantly and as one. The play out at the end of movement four, luravit Dominus, was breathtaking. In addition to the elegance of style and dynamic palette, the orchestral counterpoint was always clean and brilliant.
After intermission was Vivaldi’s iconic work, Gloria in D Major, RV 589. The chorus swelled to a larger group and Tebar again set a vibrant, electrifying tempo to begin the work. His vision for the overall shape of these two pieces was fresh, and the connections and pauses really told a story. The orchestra played as one for him at all times.
Occasionally the tempos seemed to push the singers, made up of college students and local community chorus members, just a bit. The overall choral sound and intonation was much improved in this work and many of the contrapuntal entrances sounded like one voice. The soloists were the same as for the Handel but often used a heavier vibrato and overly darkened tonal color than is customary for this style of music. Movement six, Dominus Deus, for solo soprano, oboe and continuo was simply beautiful. Robert Weiner plays the oboe with a deep, rich sonority that is special.
The continuo playing by Claudio Jaffé on cello and Paul Cienniwa on harpsichord was stunning and formed the foundation of so much of the program. The Gloria also featured brief moments of exciting playing by Nikola Nikolovski on piccolo trumpet sounding like an extension of the upper strings.
All in all, this was a concert of passion and great music making by the Palm Beach Symphony.