Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pianoforte versus the BIG sound

Friday night I hopped on my bike and pedaled over to hear Ted Good play his "little red fellow" a reproduction Cristofori Fortepiano in a small concert hall at Stanford University. It was a personal experience. The soft sound of Little Red gave me the sense that Ted was making the music personally. The reverberating echo of our modern pianos was still to come, every note has a hand made feeling to it. Trills didn't echo but were delightfully different. Other than the up-close-and-personal sound, the bass notes sounded the most different. There was a kind of sharp 'boing' sound. I wonder if this is because all the strings (of which there are two for every hammer) are the same width. My 1903 Chickering piano, like my 2007 steel-string guitar have bass strings that are much thicker than the treble.

Saturday night I again biked over to Stanford (the ride over is fine if I leave around sunset, but coming back in the dark with no moon, there were a few very, very dark spots). This time to hear a chorus of nearly 150 people singing Felix Mendelssohn's oratorio "Elijah" in the Stanford Memorial Church. The performance was the culmination of a one-day workshop of people from many choruses and choirs. (I had a conflict during the day but- yes- I would love to have been singing.) This was BIG sound. I don't know what the official word is on the acoustics there but I got a great deal of pleasure when the director, Craig Jessop, long-time director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, raised his baton at the end of an air and I could feel the sound float up and resonate in the top of the dome. He also did an excellent job of organizing the group. There was a kind of angel choir effect in the middle that was particularly good. Though I figured out where my own voice part (the sopranos) were standing, versus the altos, I never quite figured out what voice part those young women were singing.

The mezzo soloist was the best. Her enunciation, emotion and the way her voice reached out to the audience was wonderful. During her character's angry speeches she flipped the pages of her music with impatience and in the soft gentle parts they were handled with a soft, delicate touch. I felt like the soprano soloist could have sent her voice out more, though she had a lovely bell-like ring. I sat up front in the middle and so was very close to the 18 piece students in the Stanford Symphonic Orchestra. There were some special instrumental bits that echoed beautifully, and were extremely well exectued, for first violin and cello when they go off with the melody. A nice air for a pair of flutists towards the end as well.

Soloists for Elijah
Michael Morris – Bass (Elijah)
Wendy Hillhouse – Mezzo
Sharon Davis – Soprano
Pedro Betancourt – Tenor