NACHTMUSIK, WITH THE UTAH VALLEY CHORAL SOCIETY, Marden Pond conducting; SCERA Shell, Orem, Tuesday evening, Aug. 29; one performance only.
Sometimes things just don't go according to plan. A case in point was the Nachtmusik concert Tuesday. Rain threatened to wreak havoc at the beginning of the outdoor event and necessitated some last-minute changes onstage. But fortunately for the orchestra and for the brave souls in the audience who came to the concert and stayed through the end, the rain never really became a problem.
However, at the start of the evening, the light rain that was falling at that time forced a rearrangement of the seating plan for the orchestra, in order to place the strings under the shelter of the shell's overhang. The result was an unusual and aurally unacceptable positioning. The orchestra was seated in one long row with the strings bunched together at the conductor's left, the woodwinds in the middle and the brass to the right. Because of this, balance was a constant problem, and it made the orchestra sound like a high school band.
Conductor Marden Pond had put together an all-Mozart program with the Requiem as the featured work. But because of the orchestra's seating, the Utah Valley Choral Society overpowered Nachtmusik on numerous occasions throughout the performance. The audience never got a chance to appreciate the music of this great work and didn't get the opportunity to hear Nachtmusik at its best.
The chorus, on the other hand, sounded wonderful. The members have a full, homogeneous sound, and they represented themselves well in the Requiem.
The four soloists were soprano Diana Walker-Neve, mezzo-soprano Anna Mooy Braithwaite, tenor Nathan David Northrup and bass Arden Hopkin, who is also the choir's music director. Except for Hopkin, who sounded as if he was on the verge of losing his voice throughout the performance, the singers did an excellent job.
Walker-Neve was especially noteworthy. She has a brilliant and expressive voice, and she sparkled in her role. Braithwaite and Northrup were also exceptional and were Walker-Neve's equal in their ensemble numbers.
Pond opened the concert with the overture to "The Magic Flute." Here, too, the orchestra sounded out of balance and disheveled because of its placement.
The Symphony No. 41 in C major, "Jupiter," ended the concert. At this point the rain had finally stopped, so Pond decided to go ahead and let the strings of the orchestra sit in their normal places. And this let Nachtmusik perform to its potential and gave the audience a better idea of what the orchestra sounds like. But the orchestra still had to contend with the SCERA shell's sound system, which distorts and jumbles up the sound.
There's no getting around it, however: You need to go to one of Nachtmusik's regular season concerts either in the SCERA Theater or in the Provo Tabernacle to appreciate the quality of its concerts and the talent of the musicians. Or at least hear one of its outdoor concerts under drier circumstances.