Well, a few days with David Robertson can make a convert of many people. I, for one, didn't expect to enjoy A Child of Our Time after hearing a recording of it that I found painfully dull. Amy Kaiser says it was the best of a pretty dismal crop, and after tonight's "dress rehearsal" performance she thought our group should record it. I'm in agreement. Other than the libretto's as-yet-unfulfilled prophecy that "the simple-hearted shall exult in the end," I've been brought around by David Robertson's compelling leadership and the beautiful sound of the orchestra and soloists.
We have the physically expressive Measha Brueggergosman (soprano), the easy-on-eyes-and-ears Kate Lindsey (mezzo), the familiar Paul Groves (tenor), and the uniquely resonant Jubilant Sykes (baritone), each contributing beautiful tone and musicality, and of course Robertson pulling deep emotion and powerful drama out of the overall texture. We also have a first half of the program featuring new work by local native Rollo Dillworth, as well as a connected pair of 20th-century classics: Charles Ives' The Unanswered Question and Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings. I couldn't believe the richness of the sound and depth of pathos Robertson wrung from those strings!
It's too bad his pre-concert lecture probably went over the heads of its audience. Besides being a "dress rehearsal," it was also a "student concert" and so brought together a goodly number of high school kids who had never been to the symphony before. I overheard a couple of kids speculating about what they were about to experience: "It's some kind of band, isn't it?" Robertson discussed the Tippett piece with his usual discursive enthusiasm which, I fear, left out a great deal of context that might have been essential to the teens' understanding. I don't think you can assume they know as much as we knew at their age. I'm sorry, but I've been in teaching situations and I know that education ain't wut it use ter be.
On the other hand, I think they "got" the music. In spite of it being a very small audience - only a few VIPs were seated above the parquet level - they gave us a long and highly vocal standing ovation at the end. These kids may be back.
IMAGES: Brueggergosman; Sykes; Lindsey