Ninth showcases singers

April 15, 1999|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Ninth Symphony of Beethoven was performed Saturday evening at the Naval Academy by the Academy Glee Clubs, the Goucher College Chorus, four soloists and the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra under the direction of John Barry Talley.

The moral of that concert is that Beethoven's towering valedictory symphony needs more than three rehearsals by such disparate forces if there's to be real hope of bringing it together.

A Ninth for the ages this was not.

Given the work's fearsome logistical challenges and broad metaphysical range, one could hardly have expected otherwise.

Still, I hasten to commend Talley for holding the huge work together at all in the face of missed entrances and nervous disagreements over tempo that dotted the Alumni Hall performance. He never flinched and, as a result, no embarrassing derailments occurred. But with so much energy devoted to sheer musical survival, it was hard for most of the participants to cut loose and enjoy the ride.

The glorious exceptions to this were the midshipmen and their guests from Goucher College who brought youthful ardor and impressive musical preparation to the extremely difficult "Ode to Joy." Despite some less than impeccable German, their enthusiasm carried the day and brought the work to a rousing conclusion.

The young performers also contributed fine singing to the lush, poetic "Serenade to Music" of Ralph Vaughan Williams that opened the program. Choir, soloists, players and conductor blended seamlessly into the languid writing of England's most popular 20th-century composer.

Vaughan Williams, need I say, is far less heaven-storming technically and spiritually than Beethoven was in his dense, sprawling Ninth Symphony.

Let me also commend members of the audience who protested to the rude photographer who was noisily snapping away during the "Serenade." After being reminded that folks had paid good money to attend a concert, not a photo-op, he packed up his camera and was gone by the opening downbeat of the Ninth.

The "Ode to Joy" was that much more joyful as a result.

Pub Date: 4/15/99

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