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Philadelphia Orchestra provides spice at SPAC

Philadelphia Orchestra provides spice at SPAC

The Philadelphia Orchestra’s summer season at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center ended with a bang

The Philadelphia Orchestra’s summer season at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center ended with a bang Saturday night. Besides the knockout trio Time for Three, the evening concluded with a fabulous performance of Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana.”

Time for Three gave the SPAC premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s “Concerto 4-3,” which was written for them and was premiered in January in Philadelphia. Violinists Zachary De Pue and Nick Kendall and double bass Ranaan Meyer were incredible in parts probably only they could play. The trio specializes in playing music of almost any style but Higdon focused on the bluegrass elements, especially of the Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee. There were many fast notes, slapped keyboards, slides, double stops and other effects.

The trio has wonderfully facile techniques and great sounds, and because they were amplified, most of what they played could be heard. The orchestra under conductor Charles Dutoit provided brassy color, interesting percussion effects and string parts filled with a frenetic vitality. The trio played everything from memory, which allowed them to make frequent eye contact. You could see they were having fun because they smiled so much. Time for Three was like a well oiled sports car. Dutoit gave each player a hug at the end.

Dutoit had much to do in the Orff, what with the addition of almost 100 singers from the Philadelphia Singers Chorale and the excellent soloists: soprano Joanna Mongiardo, tenor Christopher Pfund and baritone Hugh Russell. But he seemed invigorated by it all.

Everyone sang in Latin or some ancient language, and fortunately a translation was provided because it was difficult to understand anything the chorus sang. The soloists, however, had great diction. They also were veterans of other “Carmina” performances so they knew when to add the appropriate theatricalities to their solos. After the famous opening “Fortuna,” the work moved along with great panache and celebratory high points. Dutoit did a super job pacing it all.

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