Last Sunday afternoon at the Porter Center for the Performing Artsat Brevard College, the Brevard Philharmonic with the Brevard High School Chorus performed a “Schubert Fest,” an aptly named concert featuring two works by Schubert and one by Rossini.
The program opened with the rhythmic, singsong overture to Rossini’s opera Il Signor Bruschino. This overture to Rossini’s operatic farce of 1813 is an appropriately comic and lighthearted work. The group did a commendable job of bringing out the rhythmic drive of the work, getting many in the audience to move their heads in time with the piece. Stamping their feet at parts (in lieu of tapping the bows of the violins against the backs of the instruments) was an effect which drew amusement, chuckles and in some instances bewilderment from the audience. Unfortunately however, the group lacked some tightness in what was otherwise an enjoyable performance.
Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 in B Flat was the other work before intermission, and the group generally performed it well, albeit with some trouble spots along the way. Scored for a smaller sized orchestra than other symphonies by the composer, it was a good fit for the Brevard Philharmonic. The opening Allegro and the Andante con Moto of movement two were nicely done and demonstrated the drive which Portnoy can cull from the orchestra. Movement three, the Menuetto, marked Allegro Molto, is gorgeous, but the performance did not put the piece in the best light; there were numerous intonation issues and the orchestra was not together in spots. The sonata form Allegro Vivace which closes the piece was one of the highlights of the afternoon, and it gave the first half of the program a strong finish.
The second part of the concert featured the Concert Chorus of Brevard High School, directed by Mary Beth Shumate. If this concert was any indication, the program at Brevard High is a solid one, featuring a choir that sings well and even managed to furnish all the soloists for the afternoon’s program. One of the highlights of the performance was the Kyrie, which began tranquilly and proceeded to crescendo to a climax. The center of the mass is the Benedictus, which makes the most use of the soloists. Perhaps the most exciting bit of the concert was the stirring Osanna in Excelsis, a fugal movement. The usage of counterpoint is characteristically Schubertian, and the forte choral finish to the movement made it thrilling to the listeners.
The Brevard Philharmonic has made a great deal of improvement over the last few years. However, they still have work to do before they can be regarded as a first rate ensemble. The Mass was clearly a success and while the instrumental pieces did not add up to a completely satisfying performance, there was still much about which to be enthusiastic.