A glowing account of Haydn’s exuberant and alluring Symphony 88 opened. With Iván Fischer in complete control the playing was precise, nuanced and perfectly balanced, the music emerging with clarity and elegance. In the celebratory Allegro the agile strings and colorful woodwinds offered an open-spirited release after the gentle and halting Adagio opening. The melodious Largo – with some wonderfully graceful and intimate oboe- and cello-playing in the opening theme and suitably jarring eruptions by trumpets and timpani – provided the most resplendent moments, and the detailed reading of the nimbly executed Finale was a constant pleasure.
The centerpiece was three Handel arias – each exhibiting a different mood and aspect of the composer’s style – sung by Jeanine De Bique. In a remarkable display of dramatic presence and vocal agility she delivered each number with exceptional ease, tonal clarity and panache. She began tenderly with the bittersweet ‘Ritorna, oh caro e dolce mio tesoro’ in which Rodelinda learns that her husband, long thought dead, is alive. Next De Bique pumped up the excitement with a sparkling rendition of the triumphant and highly ornamented ‘Da tempeste il legno infranto’ in which Cleopatra displays her joy at being rescued from imprisonment. Finally – and most spectacularly – came an absolutely breathtaking interpretation of the even more elaborately decorated ‘Disseratevi, o porte d’Averno!’. The BFO was with her all the way, with Soma Dinyés’s lithe harpsichord adding to the blend.
Finally an unusually characterful performance of the 'Jupiter’ Symphony, played superbly. The grand and jubilant first movement came across with great vigor and drama as Fischer created a compelling narrative flow that led naturally into the Andante cantabile. Following the firm rhythms of the Minuet, the complex and multi-layered Finale was taken a bit slower than is common, recapturing the festive breadth of the first movement while allowing fresh details to emerge with color and lucidity.
For an encore the women of the BFO sang – splendidly – a crystalline arrangement of one of Dvořák’s Moravian Duets.