Time Out New York’s review of ASO’s Schumann

Live Review: The ASO’s arrested development at Lincoln Center

posted in The Volume by Olivia Giovetti on April 12th, 2010

We sometimes wonder if conductor Leon Botstein has made his own Faustian deal with the devil. On the one hand, the music director and principal conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra has a talent for bringing rare gems from both well-known and criminally neglected composers to the musical forefront, often with some of the most thrilling up-and-coming vocalists around. On the other hand, many of these performances show the audience only snapshots of each composer’s world, sending the audience postcards without getting under the skin. He does a great job of telling, but falls short on showing. But since Botstein’s concerts are rare chances to hear these works, we keep going.

Friday night was par for the course with Schumann’s dramatic and potent Scenes from Goethe’s Faust, the third and final installment of the ASO’s Schumann oratorio cycle (which began in 2003) and a tribute to the composer’s bicentennial. Like Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust, Schumann’s work is not categorically an opera, but has as much license to thrill as anything on the Met stage. Apart from some troubles in the brass section, the playing was accurate, yet it was also unaffecting. Dramatic thrusts were punctuated with corresponding dynamics that drowned out the Concert Chorale of New York and Brooklyn Youth Chorus, who both had some heavenly moments that went unheard.

While many of the soloists faced similar struggles, Michael Spyres and Hanan Alattar emerged victorious. Rarely heard in the United States, Spyres had a radiant and poetic tenor with blushes of ardor and musical evangelism. Likewise, Alattar boasted a magnetic, feline personality onstage and a crystalline soprano to match. As Faust and Gretchen, respectively (with separate roles to sing in the oratorio’s final part), baritone Andrew Schroeder and soprano Twyla Robinson were a fantastic pair and dramatically at home in their roles, though both took some time to warm up to the orchestra and the hall. Bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen descended further and further into the Mephistophelean recesses of his devilish character. There was still more to love among the remaining soloists, including the rich and resonant mezzo Eve Gigliotti. Yet despite all the blooms of considerable talent, the evening failed to fully flourish.

Read more: http://www3.timeoutny.com/newyork/thevolume/2010/04/live-review-the-asos-arrested-development-at-lincoln-center/#ixzz0l73HOuNG

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