Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

November 14, 2009

Schumann & Brahms

Hartford Symphony & Hartford Chorale
The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
by Terry Larsen

So many love choirs, orchestras, and the great musical works that feed them, with the monumental “Ein Deutches” Requiem being one of the most cherished. The instruments and vocals all meet with the other necessary element of the ritual sharing of sonorous beauty -- the audience. These are people who hope to leave those great halls changed, at least for the moment; and somehow better for having been there.

The Bushnell's intimate Belding Theater was set for just such an experience. The event had the added appeal of being an audition for the post of Musical Director of the Hartford Symphony by guest conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos.

The orchestra and chorale were very well prepared for the pairing of Romantic era works on the bill. The orchestra performed both pieces concisely, with dedication to the score and an understanding of the style of the period. Although there were some of the inevitable balance issues that occur when voices and instruments occupy the same time and space, the chorale and orchestra performed admirably throughout the Brahms. Both soloists sang beautifully: Mr. Deas with fine diction, a compact, expressive power, and rich timbre; Ms. Forsythe with a lithe, well supported line that floated beautifully above the accompanying orchestra and chorale.

That being said, this reviewer was a bit disappointed by both performances, reluctantly laying the responsibility on the shoulders of Kitsopoulos. His direction seemed bland, without passion or real conviction. His gestures and demeanor were square, perfunctory, and did not anticipate from moment to moment the changes in dynamic, velocity, and emotion demanded by works of this period. There was no sense of urgency in the story telling. He made no compelling demands on the performers to aspire to that ineffable moment that transcends the requirements of the page and the beat pattern. Despite the polite standing ovation offered by the audience, I left the hall with a somewhat puzzled feeling that I must have missed something. The forces were very much in place and a beautiful was moment at hand, however, Kitsopoulos did not seize the opportunity to bring it all to life.