The Bach Society Orchestra
At Paine Hall
Michael Greenebaum gave his final performance as conductor of the Bach Society Orchestra on Sunday night. In the two years since he founded this group he has welded it into a truly outstanding student orchestra. For his final concert, he chose as exciting a program as possible, and the orchestra responded with its finest performance to date. The large audience evidently agreed, according the group a prolonged and vociferous standing ovation at the concert's end.
Greenebaum's skill as a conductor was most apparent in Haydn's Trumpet Concerto in E flat. He kept a careful series of balances between orchestral sections, while giving a firm and yet compliant accompaniment to the soloist. Trumpeter Jane Rogers played the difficult concerto with great skill. Beyond merely getting the notes correctly, a task in itself, she displayed a shimmering tone. At forte, her tone was never strident, and she also was able to play marvelously softly. It was a rare example of great musicianship on the trumpet, whose practitioners are usually content to dazzle their audiences with range and volume.
Living up to its name, the orchestra also played two Bach cantatas. The first was a solo cantata for baritone, strings, oboe, and continue, Ich hab genug (No. 82.). The orchestra was beautifully conducted by Greenebaum, but soloist Gary Gaines was clearly unequal to the taxing vocal line. His voice lacked support, volume, and depth; and his breath control was insufficient to sustain the phrases. The other cantata, Wachet auf (No. 140), fared better. The chorus, numbering only twelve, was well trained by Edward Lloyd, and bass soloist Thomas Beveridge sang with feeling. The soprano soloist was Sara-Jane Smith, who added one more concert to her list of impressive performances. There is commonly a distinction between "musicians" and "singers", but Miss Smith is obviously both. She has an exciting lyrical voice and a sensitive way of spinning a phrase that make it always a pleasure to listen to her.
Although Greenebaum is leaving, the orchestra will continue under the baton of Michael Senturia. As well as giving expert oboe performances in the cantatas, Senturia conducted Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G minor. It was clear that he had worked the orchestra hard in rehearsals, for even though he conducted a little stiffly, the volumes and tempi were well chosen, and the orchestra responded well. Despite the loss of its founder, the Bach Society Orchestra should continue to be one of the top musical organizations in Cambridge.