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McGegan leads BSO in a shallow preformance

BOSTON SYMPHONY

ORCHESTRA

and Tanglewood Festival Chorus,

John Oliver, Director.

Conducted by Nicholas McGegan.

Works by Haydn and Mozart.

Symphony Hall, April 6, 8 pm.

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By JONATHAN RICHMOND

COMPARED TO THE GLOWING, insightful performances Nicholas McGegan drew from his Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra on a recent visit to Boston, his sessions with the Boston Symphony Orchestra were a disaster.

The BSO concert got off to a promising, if unexpected start, with a deeply involved rendition of Mozart's Ave, Verum Corpus. While McGegan is known as an authenticist, his way of handling the orchestra was anything but authentic here: He elicited a warm, flowing, silky sound, quite in contrast to the sharpness and clarity for

which the authentic movement has become known. The effect was beautiful, even mesmerizing, and the chorus blended magically with the orchestra to quite a moving effect.

Haydn's Mass in B-flat, "Harmoniemesse," was done next. McGegan certainly produced a powerful performance, full of thrust, but it was disorganized and, in the end, empty. The orchestra sounded undirected, and were clearly having trouble following McGegan's directions. They failed to keep together for much of the time, resulting in extended passages of mushiness. The chorus, rehearsed by John Oliver, stood on stronger ground and contributed a fair amount of exciting singing. But they, too, fell into fuzziness at times, especially when McGegan's direction took eccentric turns.

Jeanne Ommerl'e put in some bright and pretty solo singing, and Jeffrey Thomas gave his music character, too. The other soloists, D'Anna Fortunato and Nathaniel Watson, did competent work as well. It's a shame that Roger Norrington, scheduled to conduct this performance, was sick and unable to attend, since there is much that can be done with this music: Unfortunately, McGegan missed the opportunity to do so.

The concert ended with a nondescript account of Mozart's Jupiter symphony, best summed up by the comment from the lady sitting behind me to her companion: "This is long. How much more?" The second movement did have its moments -- it was even touching in places -- but the clarity one has especially come to expect and admire from the "authenticists" was lacking, and the overall impression was one of shallowness.