Verdict is in on Baltimore Symphony's 'Jeanne d'Arc' at Carnegie Hall
Marin Alsop may not single-handedly reverse the fate of Arthur Honegger's neglected oratorio "Jeanne d'Arc au bucher," but the conductor is certainly giving it a valiant try.
Alsop championed it over the summer at the Oregon Bach Festival, then in London, Baltimore and New York this month.
It is easy to understand Alsop's interest in the score, which combines a whole mess of styles and hefty ideas.
It's also easy to understand why some folks resist the score, precisely because it combines a whole mess of styles and hefty ideas.
Although I am not convinced by all of the music or the text, I think there's some great stuff in there. This is not just an oratorio, but an experience. I found that experience absorbing and, ultimately, rewarding last week when Alsop led the Baltimore Symphony, soloists and choristers in "Jeanne d'Arc au bucher" at Meyerhoff Hall.
It was fun getting to hear in person a piece I only knew from recordings and music history books, and to hear it performed with such commitment and quality.
But you don't need to read more of my opinions. You want to know what the Big City critics thought after the BSO's presentation Saturday night at Carnegie Hall (I did not get to make the trip). So here's their verdict:
... Honegger was, if nothing else, a master of stylistic fusion. He also was curiously deft at making a relatively short exercise, about 80 minutes, seem long.
Marin Alsop ... presided over the aural orgy ... Last week she pioneered the so-called dramatic oratorio with the excellent Baltimore Symphony on home turf ... And on Saturday she .. conducted throughout with neat bravado ... Caroline Dhavernas spoke Jeanne’s lines with stoic passion. Ronald Guttman offered sympathetic counterpoint as Frère Dominique ...
When all was said and sung, the would-be revival suggested much ado about rather little.
Vivien Schweitzer, New York Times: Marin Alsop, the Baltimore Symphony’s adventurous music director, who is clearly passionate about the 80-minute piece, marshaled the forces in a tightly wrought performance ...
The mishmash of eclectic and sometimes gaudy elements often becomes disjointed and doesn’t gel into a particularly cohesive whole, although Ms. Alsop aptly revealed the myriad musical details of each scene ...
Caroline Dhavernas imbued her portrayal of Joan with dignity, expressive depth and urgency, particularly in her tragic concluding moments. Ronald Guttman enacted the role of Brother Dominic with charismatic flair ...