Unfinished as Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 is, it was relegated to the rank of mere
hors-d’oeuvre in the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s recent concert, conducted
by Asher Fisch, and the audience was released to a not-yet-well-deserved
intermission after only 20-minutes.
Conductor Fisch presented an
admirable rendition, displaying masterful command of the orchestral tutti and
the many, delicately profiled instrumental soli. By not rushing the fast
movement’s Allegro and not dragging the slow movement’s Andante he achieved a
reasonable balance of tempi.
In the program’s main work, Rossini’s Stabat
Mater, however, the conductor seemed to be preoccupied with the orchestra more
than with his vocal forces. The Gary Bertini Choir sounded accurate and precise,
but mechanic and indifferent, without flexibility of tempi when appropriate and
with no nuances of dynamics when desirable.
The concluding Amen’s
enthusiasm became mere shouting. Effective enough, though, for eliciting the
conventional rhythmic applause when it was all over. As for the solo singers,
these were too often overshadowed by the orchestral din.
soloists, Cosmin Ifrim was outstanding. His radiant, forcefully expressive
heldentenor was up to the high expectations of this role.
This is more
than can be said about the other singers. Rinat Shaham’s warm mezzo-soprano was
appealing when the orchestra had a rest, but was no match for the orchestra’s
mostly domineering, unrestrained volume. Serena Farnocchia displayed a bright,
clear soprano – too strained and shrill, however, on the higher notes. The
dark-timbred bass-baritone of Simon Orfila sounded friendly, but tended to
vanish when descending to his role’s lower depths.
The gentle art of
casting did not quite do justice to this enchanting masterpiece.