Rockford Symphony Orchestra and Mendelssohn Chorale compelling.
–The Rockford Symphony Orchestra invited the Rockford’s Mendelssohn Choral to share the stage at the Coronado Theatre Saturday evening. It was part of the Classic Series themed “God Save the King.”
–With some 150 musicians on stage, though the number estimates ranged, it was a compelling event to experience the full potential of home-grown talent performing a classy concert in a sort of musical heaven.
–Three esteemed composers, Felix Mendelssohn, George Frideric Handel and Joseph Haydn were honored on the program. They were historically connected by birth, death and professional accomplishment, noted musical director Steven Larsen. While all three were born in German-speaking countries, they produced the majority of their works in England.
–Moreover, the program selections had a celebratory feel at the dawn of rebirth and renewal, a special rite of spring with each “Allelujah.” Handel’s Coronation Anthem from “Zadok the Priest” was composed for all vocal ranges and full orchestra. Choruses from Handel’s “Judas Maccabeus,” an oratorio in three acts, were performed next after Larsen made light of the actual text that may or may not connect to contemporary appreciation.
–Special guest artists tenor Geoffrey Agpalo and baritone Gerard Sundberg joined the orchestra and chorale to reign supreme with each passage. Agpalo began his singing career in lighter musical venue, but changed his focus to operatic roles. He was an intriguing presence while Sundberg seemed to reign in pure form with his beautiful and clear voice.
–Haydn’s Symphony No. 101 in D Major, “The Clock” was performed in the typical four movements with the rhythmic ticking featured throughout. A prolific composer of symphonies, string quartets and sonata form, Haydn is placed at the forefront of the classic period with Bach and Beethoven.
–With many more chapters of musical history since that era of the 18th century, the contemporary ear might be more tuned to testosterone-rich composers like Sergei Prokofiev or emotionally satisfying as Peter Tchaikovsky. By contrast, Haydn might seem lightweight in a perpetually happy 2/4 meter. This symphony harkened to the symphonic language and genius of the era that laid the foundation for composers yet to come. Haydn has been frequently referred to as the “father of symphony,” an historic position along the way.
–Mendelssohn singing Mendelssohn finished the program in all the glory of vocal and symphonic power. Selections from “Elijah” also featured guests Agpalo and Sundberg with the chorale under the direction of MC’s Martha Bein. Also featured were concertmaster Michelle Lekas, flutist Scott Metlicka, oboist Debra Freedland, bassoonist Karl Rzasa, horn player Beck Asher and trumpeter Mark Baldin.
–While Larsen always acknowledges an awkward applause here and there between movements, he found himself gesturing the final moment that seemed to say, “that’s all folks,” in good humor.