Nachtmusik's second season opened Wednesday evening with a successful program featuring works by both famous and obscure composers. One of the Provo-based group's characteristics is to have a theme for each new concert, and Wednesday's was titled "Stiff Upper Lip." The program contained music by either native English or adopted English composers. Hence the obscurity of some of the music.
The orchestra played well, in spite of a few minor glitches (a couple of intonation problems in the violins and French horns and a temperamental harpsichord). Music director Marden Pond has done quite a remarkable job with this ensemble. Nachtmusik is definitely on its way to becoming an established chamber orchestra.(In case there is somebody out there who still doesn't know it, the members of Nachtmusik dress in period costumes while playing the music of the 18th century ex-clu-sively.)
Pond showed another side of his artistry at this concert by playing the solo trumpet part in Purcell's well-known "Trumpet Tune." Accompanied by the strings and French horns, Pond did an excellent job in this brief piece.
There was another soloist at Wednesday's concert, soprano Eda Ashby. Ashby, who is a well-known voice teacher and singer in Utah Valley, sang two selections. The first was from one of Handel's last operas, "Xerxes": "Ombra mai fu" (better known as the "Largo" from "Xerxes"). Ashby has an expressive and rich voice. She sang her part beautifully, and she brought out the softness of the music.
Pond took the aria at a fairly brisk tempo - not the slow, stately "largo" Handel called for. As such, much of the tenderness of the music was lost in his interpretation.
Ashby's other number was the poignant aria "When I am laid in earth" ("Dido's Lament") from Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas." Ashby once again did an outstanding job here. She brought out the sorrow and sadness of this piece with simple dignity. And Pond and the orchestra offered a subtle accompaniment that underscored the vocal line.
The slow movement from Haydn's "Surprise" Symphony (No. 94 in G major) was also on the program. The orchestra did a fine job with this movement, and Pond brought out the dynamic contrasts (the surprises) very well. For some unknown reason, this movement was played without the trumpets. The music, therefore, lacked the brilliance it needed for effect (particularly in the loud passages).
Johann Christian Bach was represented by his Sinfonia in B flat major. This three-movement work contains some delightful, melodic music. The slow movement especially is expressive, with some long passages for oboe (played exquisitely by Lindsay Robison) that are simply enthralling.
The evening ended with the Symphony No. 5 in D major by William Boyce. This is lively, rousing, joyful music. There's nothing serious here. You just sit back, listen to it and daydream.