December 18, 2012
Last weekend's San Franciso Symphony Messiah performances were wondrous. Chorus director Ragnar Bohlin, who has honed the SFS Chorus to an instrument of precision and affecting sensibility, conducted with his usual understated, self-effacing manner, which masks palpable understanding and passion for the great masterpiece.
I have lost count of my Messiah attendances over the years, but there was no sense of "same old" here, of listening to something overfamiliar. All the talent and dedication that went into the music was communicated clearly to newbie and veteran alike in the audience.
Chorus and orchestra were flawless at the Saturday final performance in every aspect: balance, dynamics, and tempos. Bohlin's choice of soloists, including three Merolini and mezzo Jennifer Johnson Cano, only underscored his reputation for vocal expertise. Tenor Andrew Stenson, bass Michael Sumuel, and — above all — soprano Joélle Harvey sang gloriously.