Advertisement
  1. Music

Review: Florida Orchestra, Master Chorale of Tampa Bay give joyous performances

Guest conductor Evan Rogister led the musicians and singers with elegance.
Published Oct. 13, 2013

The Florida Orchestra and the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay opened their seasons Friday night with a vigorous joint performance of a titanic masterpiece and another symphony that ought to be better known.

Beethoven's Ninth Symphony was the headliner. The rousing "Ode to Joy" of its final movement brought the usual standing ovation. But no wonder. Under the direction of guest conductor Evan Rogister, both ensembles were in top form.

Rogister is a tall and angular presence onstage, with precise and expressive hands, and he conducts in an elegant, buoyant manner. But the musicians and singers, too, are a disciplined bunch, many having played together for years. No summer cobwebs were in evidence. And the surprisingly diverse crowd that filled most of the Straz Center's largest hall, the Morsani, showed its appreciation with whistles, cheering and shouts.

While the Beethoven chorus was an obvious highlight, I especially liked the crisp performance of Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms that opened the evening. Listeners who have kept themselves unfamiliar with Stravinsky's musical language may find the tightly woven rhythms and melodies a bit dense. But Rogister's leadership kept every strand precisely in synch.

The text of the symphony is derived from three Hebrew psalms, translated to Latin. They move, in Stravinsky's words, from "the prayer of the sinner for divine pity" through "the recognition of grace received" to a "hymn of praise and glory." Stravinsky said he intended the orchestra and chorus to play equal roles in developing the material. The middle section, for example, contains an intricate double fugue, one each for the two ensembles.

The final section, though, is the most remarkable. It begins with a medium-soft "alleluia" (praise ye the Lord). And while it builds through a driving combination of instrumental and choral virtuosity, its ecstatic conclusion evokes a heightened state, not of bombast, but of serenity — a mystic quietude not often associated with Christian praise music.

The orchestra's treatment of the Beethoven was similarly fine, each part clearly articulated, although perhaps in the first movement not with the same strong narrative spine as I heard in the Stravinsky. The familiar scherzo of the second movement came with every bit of the speed that "molto vivace" and "presto" would indicate; woodwinds and cellos were especially expressive, although overall I may have heard renditions that brought out more of the music's playfulness.

The third movement is a moment of repose. Rogister brought it to a nicely rounded finish, a stately declaration of things with a lightness that seemed to lift the moment slightly off the ground.

And then — drama and effusions of joy! Another chance for the cellos to shine as they sifted through previous ideas before smoothly introducing the famous theme, followed in turn by violas and violins. Bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green was superb in his abrupt call to put aside worry. Tenor Nathaniel Peake's scampering above the march section made me happy. Soprano Katie Van Kooten and mezzo-soprano Nancy Maultsby gave the solo quartet a nice piquancy in front of that magnificent chorus.

By the end, Rogister's spiky hairdo was flattened in perspiration, and a well-earned ecstasy was the result.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Switchfoot will perform at 97X Next Big Thing on Nov. 22 at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa.
    They’ll join headliners the Killers on the festival’s opening night in Tampa.
  2. The 53rd-annual Rattlesnake Festival will be held Oct. 19-20 at the Pasco County Fairgrounds in Dade City. The weekend event, kicks off with a prelude concert featuring the Bellamy Brothers on Friday, and raises money for the Thomas Promise Foundation. The foundation provides meals for Pasco County school children who do not have regular access to nutritional meals on weekends when school is not in session. "LUIS SANTANA  |  TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The annual festival offers a family-friendly outing while raising money to feed school children in need.
  3. Fred Johnson, who still performs locally, is community engagement specialist and artist-in-residence at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa. Courtesy of Tampa Jazz Club
    The 68-year-old artist has worked with all the big names. But helping the community is his purpose.
  4. Truth Hurts" wasn't originally featured on the 11-track "Cuz I Love You," but her record label added it to the deluxe version of the album, released on May 3. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    The songwriting brothers Justin and Jeremiah Raisen, who worked on “Healthy,” claim say they deserve writing credit on “Truth Hurts.”
  5. Billy Gibbons, right, and Dusty Hill of ZZ Top play the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in 2013. JEAN-CHRISTOPHE BOTT  |  AP
    Plus, Zac Brown Band, Cheap Trick, Young Thug, Illenium, Bishop Briggs and more.
  6. Gladys Knight performs at sundown at the 36th Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 15, 2015, in Coachman Park. JIM DAMASKE  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES
    The annual event, which returns this weekend, has come a long way. Where will it go from here?
  7. Graham Nash will perform at the Bilheimer Capitol Theatre on March 19. Courtesy of Amy Grantham
    Catch up on today’s Tampa Bay concert announcements.
  8. In this Sept. 30, 2015, photo, South Korean pop star and actress Sulli poses during the K-Beauty Close-Up event in Seoul, South Korea. News reports on Monday, Oct. 14, 2019, say Sulli has been found dead at her home south of Seoul. JANG SE-YOUNG                         |  AP
    Sulli’s body was discovered after her manager visited her residence in Seongnam because she wasn’t answering phone calls for hours, said Kim Seong-tae.
  9. Mumford and Sons will headline the 2020 Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival in South Florida. Courtesy of Alistair Taylor-Young
    Vampire Weekend, Haim, Rufus du Sol and Kaskade lead the eclectic 2020 lineup.
  10. Alison Krauss will perform at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 20. Capitol Records
    The Clearwater Jazz Holiday returns with a strong music lineup, Zac Brown Band plays Tampa and Barry Bostwick will be here to screen ‘Rocky Horror.'
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement