Jakob Solos With Chamber Orchestra
To hear the 2006 winner of the Oberlin Concerto Competition Jennifer Jakob sing Britten’s Les illuminations Op. 18 last Friday in Finney Chapel with the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra was to experience an enchanting evening. The program also featured Copland’s Appalachian Spring Ballet Suite and Tchaikovsky’s Serenade Op. 48 for string orchestra.
Although the programming choice of Appalachian Spring was somewhat cheesy, its catchy dance tunes and treacherous but intriguing rhythmic changes made one’s ankles swing about in delight.
The full orchestra version of Copland’s ballet suite provided flutist senior Brandon George, first-year oboist David Barford and bassoonists sophomore Joycelyn Ebby and junior Nathan Landes with the opportunity to play several sparkly solos. Barford’s obvious enjoyment of the music added a special touch, especially compared to the Cleveland Orchestra’s casual performance two weeks ago.
The string sections had a vibrant tone quality. With several intonation obstacles to overcome, the trumpet section made a good impression when joined with the French horns. The brass definitely enjoyed a stellar moment near the end. Concertmistress Tae-Hee Im played a lovely solo, and her duet with the flute, followed by short “calls” in the clarinet, strings and percussion parts closed the piece peacefully.
Jakob’s rich, strong and beautiful soprano promised an amazing future when she performed the Rimbaud poems that were set into a song cycle by Britten. Bright and spacious, her voice flawlessly filled Finney Chapel, even though at times it seemed that she was not quite singing to her full potential.
In a section of the cycle titled, “Marine,” Jakob bravely delivered perfect sweeping glissandos and enabled one to hear vividly the wind in the sails. Her high notes were impeccable and the group’s overall excitement and technicality reached a new level.
The string’s trills set the mood for the last movement, “Depart,” which wrapped up the cycle with restless nostalgia and melancholy.
After the intermission, Serenade for strings opened so powerfully that one was almost able to hear the brass that could have been included as a part of the score. While the overall sound quality was exuberant, it often needed more warmth and less power. Several of the singing themes were wide and sweet, fully in the character of the style, and were a pleasure to listen to.
The infamous old-time favorite, “Walzer,” sounded charming, but it could have benefited from a greater amount of flexibility, which wouldn’t have hurt the overall flow. The lack of hesitation after high notes was unsatisfying. Although splendidly rich in sonorities, the viola section could have avoided “sitting” with an accent at the end of the phrases near the last portion of the piece.
The finale, “Tema Russo,” sounded a little dry and its playful tunes came across as a bit too serious. The lyrical melodies needed more dynamic swells and more color contrasts and the violin section should not have sounded so aggressive. Technically, the musicians handled the movement; one could only wish that they didn’t appear so distressed while doing it. The solemn coda was a truly pleasing way to finish the night.