Tonight at the Schnitz, music director Kalmar and the orchestra got in sync and gave a fine performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony. This is not an easy feat, considering that this was the third performance of the piece, and it's easy to slack off. But tonight the artistry and professionalism of the musicians and their leader was at a much higher level. The strings played sublimely and really together. I was especially impressed with the way the violins and violas played with utmost commitment. From my perch in the choir stalls, I can see them the best. But there was plenty sparkling playing by their colleagues: the woodwinds, the brass, and especially timpanist Paul Salvatore, who plays all of the correct notes at the right time without any cues from Kalmar. It made me think that Salvatore can play this thing blindfolded.
Also, the playing of assistant principal bassoonist Evan Kuhlmann and bassoonist Robert Naglee was almost impeccable at every single performance.
Fortunately, Kalmar kept improving his communication with the soloists. He allowed soprano Kelley Nassief to hold onto the notes a little longer. Each night all three soloists sounded terrific. It should be noted that tenor Brendan Tuohy and mezzo soprano Hannah Penn came directly from the Portland Opera production of "La Traviata" to sing marvelously on Sunday evening (as did Sharin Apostolou in the Vaughan William's number). Baritone Philip Cutlip was splendid at each performance, but tonight he nearly tweaked the high F in his declamatory opening statement. That's a very minor nit, but heck, I've got to find something to complain about.
The Vaughan Williams piece, "Serenade to Music," was perhaps a little less perfect tonight than during previous evenings. Someone in the double basses came in to early at one point, but that was about all to notice.
I think that Portland Symphonic Choir sang very well for all of the concerts, but it's hard for me to judge since I'm too influenced by my own singing and what's happening around me.
The house was almost sold out tonight. Saturday and Sunday evening were pretty standing room only. That bodes well for the OSO, which will play again this Friday in a concert with the sensational Chinese pianist Lang Lang. That concert is sold out and should be a big splash. It would be great if a TV crew would come by to take a snapshot of this pianist. Lang Lang was the featured artist of the Summer Olympics and has inspired thousands of kids to study piano and Western Music. I'm really looking forward to hearing him.