ASO: Robert Spano with a Battalion of Guests

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra crammed a lot of people onto their stage for last night’s performance of Mahler’s Symphony no. 8 under the baton of Robert Spano. They had to angle the sides of the acoustic shell so they sloped outward downstage to fit everyone in. The ASO Chorus mixed with the Morehouse College Glee Club were in the regular chorus seats up-stage. Just below them were the Gwinnett Young Singers flanked on either side by some of the women of the ASOC and the Spelman College Glee Club. The rest of the women were on risers flanking the stage, with their backs to the walls of the acoustic shell, facing inward and slightly downstage. The on-stage soloists occupied the sliver of space left downstage of the orchestra musicians. The lineup included sopranos Evelina Dobrańćeva and Erin Wall, mezzo-sopranos Michelle DeYoung and Kelly O’Connor, tenor Toby Spence, Baritone Russel Braun, and bass Morris Robinson. Mater Gloriosa was sung by Nicole Cabell from the stairs of the left mezzanine loge and some brass played from the feet of both loges in the mezzanine to surround us with sound during certain dramatic scenes in the Goethe section.
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ASO: Robert Spano with Tatiana Monogarova, Morris Robinson, & Simon Trpceski

This evening’s ASO concert was full of beauty and power realized by some great soloists under a well managed baton wielded by Maestro Spano. It began with Shostakovitch’s Symphony no. 14, which is scored for soprano and bass vocalists with a chamber orchestra made up of strings and percussion. The vocal parts are Russian translations of 11 poems by Lorca, Apollinaire, Kuchelbecker, and Rilke, all of which revolve around death through a variety of perspectives. Despite this, the music isn’t all grim and brooding and is actually somewhat lively at times. There was something throughout the piece that came across sometimes as abstract and almost alienating and others as somewhat contemplative, as though the music is thinking about the poems, turning them around in different ways to try to get to the real meaning. The soloists for the piece were soprano Tatiana Monogarova and bass Morris Robinson. The vocalists were both excellent: Robinson’s low notes were clear and strong and Monogarova’s performance was dramatic and moving. The third movement in particular, based on Apollinaire’s ‘Loreley,’ nearly brought me to tears and I found the fourth, based on Apollinaire’s ‘Le Suicide,’ only slightly less moving. The low strings are very prominent in this piece and cellist Daniel Laufer gave a stand-out performance, particularly when giving solo accompaniment to Monogarova.
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