Vaughan Williams at the TSO

I went to Roy Thomson Hall last night to hear an all Vaughan Williams program conducted by Peter Oundjian.  It’s not really my thing but there was a fine quartet of soloists lined up for the Serenade to Music.

EIS, Huhtanen, DAngelo, Wiliford, Duncan (@Jag Gundu-TSO)

Things got going with the Fantasia on “Greensleeves” which was perfectly OK if a bit hackneyed.  There was a decent account of the Concerto for Oboe and Strings with Sarah Jeffrey as the soloist.  Then there was the Serenade.  For some reason the soloists were lined up with the choir (the Elmer Iseler singers) behind the orchestra.  The result was sonic mush and textual porridge.  I caught exactly one word of the text; “stratagems” for what it’s worth.  The rest was not recognisable as English, let alone understandable.  And, of course, it was too dark to read the supplied text.  This despite soloists; Carla Huhtanen, Emily D’Angelo, Lawrence Wiliford and Tyler Duncan, who are consistently excellent with text. This is becoming very annoying.  As often as not when I go to see the TSO do vocal works the soloists are either inaudible or incomprehensible.  I know the hall is difficult but the performance of the Ryan Requiem last week showed that it is possible to showcase singers.  I think it’s really unfair to audiences and singers alike.  Anyway, I was so fed up that I left at the interval.

Photo credit: Jag Gundu

5 thoughts on “Vaughan Williams at the TSO

  1. I ended up going…and it’s too bad you left as the second half had the most interesting music by far – the ‘Flos campi’ was very moody, with exquisite viola playing by Teng Li and a weird ‘wordless’ chorus that worked well. Then the piano concerto was really something – very much V-W in his more muscular vein…not the prettiness of Greensleeves etc, and played with tons of energy by Louis Lortie. But I completely agree regarding the projection of the soloists and choir in the Serenade…I guess they’ll work out balances for the live recording they were doing for Chandos, but in the hall, words were completely incomprehensible…and I don’t think this was the singers’ fault. Have heard Lawrence Wiliford many times and his diction is usually impeccable. I think it was their placement behind the orchestra…and possibly the poetic text which was challenging. It’s really too bad as this can be ecstatic music. But you missed some good stuff!!!

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