The Boise Philharmonic gave a stunning and powerful performance of Beethovens Symphony No. 9 to a sold-out Morrison Center on Feb. 23. With slightly more than 300 musicians and vocalists on stage, it was as close as the orchestra can get to an Ode to Joy wall of sound.
The Ninth is one of those classical works that becomes a touchstone for audiences and orchestras. Like Maher Five, which the philharmonic aced in 2008, its epic quality also makes it a milestone.
For the Boise Philharmonic, its Master Chorale and the combined choirs of College of Idaho and Northwest Nazarene University, this was a spectacular achievement.
They captured all the musical nuance, color, vocal power and emotional expression in the music, leaving the audience floating on an inspired high. The musicians coalesced into a seamless force with the melodies and themes rolling from bass to violin effortlessly. Franz conducted like a dancer, pulling out layer upon layer of musical contrasts. Together they executed exact timing and perfect tone.
Four excellent solo vocalists led the choirs. Guest baritone Derrick Parker introduced the iconic Ode to Joy melody with his rich, bright baritone that filled the concert hall. This was Parkers second performance in Boise. In 2000, he sang Figaro in Opera Idahos Le Nozze di Figaro. He was joined by soaring tenor Christopher Bengochea and delightful sopranos Emily Newton and Michele Detwiler. A Metropolitan Opera artist Newton sang in bell-like tones that pierced through and danced on the top of the vocal range. Boises Detwiler wove her honeyed mezzo through the melody with ease.
You can see Bengochea and Newton perform in Opera Idahos Pagliacci March 1 and 3.
Led by director James Jirak, the chorale and choirs were impressive. The Treasure Valley is lucky to have such a wealth of gifted performers.
Perhaps the most amazing aspect of the program was Franzs brilliance in juxtaposing the Ninth against Beethovens Symphony No. 1: The alpha and omega of Beethoven, as Franz told the audience in his opening remarks.
The contrast between the two symphonies played back to back gave insight into the composers trajectory and showed how far he pushed the symphonic form in his lifetime. Nothing was the same after the Ninth. And if audiences were awestruck and confused by it in 1824, the audience Saturday was rapt and enlightened.
Hearing the First also offered an opportunity to hear the Ninth differently. The First was Beethoven refined. Influenced by the era before him and his teacher Haydn, the First was filled with delicate phrases, musical humor and hints of the rich melodic themes to come some 20 years later. In his Ninth, all of that precision and formal structure still exists, but they are a foundation from which Beethovens creativity could soar.
Dana Oland: 377-6442, Twitter: @IDS_DanaOland
Matinee performance: 2 p.m. Feb. 24, Morrison Center, 2201 Cesar Chavez Lane. $21.50-$61.50 at the box office.