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July 26, 2013

KC Chamber Orchestra starts season with celebratory, summery repertoire

Group’s 27th season includes repertoire favorites from some of classical music’s most lauded names: Haydn, Handel, and Mozart.

The Kansas City Chamber Orchestra began its 27th season with repertoire favorites from some of classical music’s most-lauded names: Haydn, Handel and Mozart.

The orchestra performed at Old Mission United Methodist Church in Fairway, where the muted side lighting from the sanctuary’s windows lent a nostalgic air. Background candlelight framed the ensemble, small by chamber orchestra standards, further enhancing the intimacy of the concert.

Music director Bruce Sorrell conducted the ensemble efficiently, with the spare use of full-bodied gestures emphasizing some of the works’ dance-like figures.

Works by George Frideric Handel, both originally intended for outdoor summer performances, bookended the concert. The overture to “Acis and Galatea” was a festive introduction. The basso continuo, performed by Rebecca Bell on harpsichord with Lawrence Figg on cello, provided churning, forward-moving energy. The oboes (Barbara Bishop and Margaret Marco) were the melodic leaders gently balanced with light, succinct violins.

The suite in F major, from Handel’s “Water Music,” was presented with a mellow sophistication that belied the original performance experience. On a July night a few hundred years ago, 50 musicians crowded onto a barge that accompanied King George I and his court for a late-night party on the Thames.

The Kansas City Chamber Orchestra’s performance was a steady rendition, generally vibrant with a regal touch from the 12 string players, five wind players and harpsichord, with nimble ornaments, intriguingly layered lines and a stately, deliberate pace.

The double-reed trio of Bishop, Marco and Kim Krutz on bassoon offered a boisterous Hornpipe. The fresh, brassy approach to the horn fanfares (David Gamble and Curt Vellenga) could be imagined ricocheting off the banks of the Thames, despite distracting tuning inconsistencies.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Exsultate, jubilate” motet blended sacred text and secular, operatic elements for an energetic, celebratory work full of glimmering flourishes. Soloist soprano Sarah Tannehill Anderson’s depth and grace blossomed with delicate agility, especially during the final exuberant moments of the Alleluia.

Also included in the first portion of the program was Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 43 in E-flat major, though with less engagement than the rest of the concert — insecure entrances and general hesitancy clouded dynamically soft sections. However, the measured, propelling mid-voices and Haydn’s dramatic dynamic changes, together with superbly executed crescendos, created instant energy.

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