BWW Reviews: Back to the 18th Century with Labadie, Persson and the New York Philharmonic

BWW Reviews: Back to the 18th Century with Labadie, Persson and the New York Philharmonic

Handel wrote over 1000 da capo arias--a musical mainstay of Italian Baroque operas--during his career, but none more thrilling than "Let the Bright Seraphim." The showpiece for soprano and piccolo trumpet, which comes at the very end of the oratorio SAMSON, is a joyous crowd-pleaser, if done only halfway right. Swedish soprano Miah Persson did much more than that, with the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall last Friday conducted by Bernard Labadie, and featuring the Philharmonic's Matthew Muckey on solo trumpet.

Handel reigns in six minutes or less

Lasting less than six minutes at the center of the evening's program, and with just 27 words, the aria summons the celestial hosts to hail a dead hero. The vocal fireworks plus sensitive interplay between Persson and Muckey resulted in a most exquisitely detailed performance. The soloists seemed to be having a good time, which was key to the quality of the performance, and passed along to the audience.

The aria was the linchpin of the program, connecting the works by Bach and Mozart.

Persson and Muckey were also soloists in the program's opener, JS Bach's Cantata No. 51, Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen (BWV 51), which featured a superb 25-musician Baroque ensemble carved out of the Philharmonic. The music is brutally difficult--it makes Handel look like a day at the beach--and Persson took some time warming up before hitting her stride. As she began, her singing was surprisingly cautious and she held on to her score for dear life, but nonetheless it ended as a thoughtful, ecstatic performance that improved as it went along.

A "new" Mozart Requiem

The star of the program, however, was a new completion of the Mozart Requiem, K. 626 by Robert D. Levin, with four soloists: again, soprano Persson, with mezzo Stephanie Blythe, tenor Frederic Antoun, and bass Andrew Foster-Williams.


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Richard Sasanow Richard Sasanow is a long-time writer on art, music, food, travel and international business for publications including The New York Times, The Guardian (UK), Town & Country and Travel & Leisure, among many others. He also interviewed some of the great singers of the 20th century for the programs at the San Francisco Opera and San Diego Opera and worked on US tours of the Orchestre National de France and Vienna State Opera, conducted by Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta and Leonard Bernstein.