[CONCERT REVIEW] Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Led by Nicholas McGegan, Breathes Life to Old Music

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, led by conductor Nicholas McGegan

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, led by conductor Nicholas McGegan

When you find yourself among great artists, it’s as if you’re on a beach with the sun in your face and margarita in-hand.

As I sat there and listened to the excellent Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center on Tuesday, March 12, I was reminded that the Baroque period of music sounds so fresh today. As we’re inundated with noise that helps us drown out the mundane, it’s Baroque music that is surprisingly so internally satisfying.

New Music, Old Instruments, Great Performers

At this concert, present-day master composers were book-ended by two Baroque giants, Handel and Purcell. This really set the stage for the more modern pieces awaiting listeners in the middle of the performance.

Now in his 33rd year conducting the San Francisco-based Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Nicholas McGegan is a force filled with exuberant joy and precision. Bringing out the most delicate details through those vast Baroque phrases, he never loses sight on the destination. Working with this orchestra over such a long period of time most certainly helps.

This evening’s program included contemporary works that highlight how the distinctive timbre and character of a Baroque orchestra can suit the purposes of present-day composers. In 2017, the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale created an initiative New Music for Old Instruments that contracted various composers. From this, two pieces from Caroline Shaw emerged.

“Red, Red Rose” is based on well-known verses by Robert Burns. A companion song to this is “And So”, which had a world premiere this night. Caroline Shaw received much applause for these works. They paired quite beautifully with Arvo Part’s “Summa", “Vater Unser", and "Es sang vor langen Jahren” heard immediately before Shaw’s premiere.

The superstar countertenor, Anthony Roth Costanzo, was the bell of the ball that night. His winsome personality and excellent voice brought down the house. There’s a reason people have lauded him in recent years and this night was no exception. If you recall, Anthony received the Classical Post Award for “Most Innovative Singer” in the countertenor category last year.

Mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter appeared at this concert, too, and amusingly indulged the crowd with Mr. Costanzo.

To learn more about Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra led by Nicholas McGegan, visit their website.

Also, visit Anthony Roth Costanzo’s website and Anne Sofie von Otter’s website for their full concert calendars.