Saturday, April 2, 2022

concert review: Ragazzi Boys Chorus

And this is how I write a review when I want to emphasize how good the chorus was - when the local symphony or opera need a boys' chorus, this is who they get, and well-deserved - and de-emphasize some of the choice of repertoire and the instrumental part of the program.

Some of the repertoire was good. I actually decided to go to this concert because they had scheduled Bruckner's Locus Iste, which is my favorite motet of all time, and they did a gorgeous job with it. In fact, they did a gorgeous job with all the choral music, including some pieces that were not worth the trouble of performing. While the arrangement of "How Can I Keep From Singing?" was brilliant (and by a noted choral composer), the arrangement of Stephen Foster's "Hard Times" was, as I suggested in the review, "rather elaborate." At the least. And that final "Ave Maria" - there are better versions.

But on the decision to show off a couple of the choristers' abilities as pianist and violinist, I had to write with considerable restraint. Just because you're a good singer, and can also hit all the right notes on that instrument you play on the side, doesn't mean you should do the latter in public. The pianist eked out a dull version of a Debussy prelude, and the violinist played most of the first movement of the Mendelssohn concerto with perfectly adequate intonation and rhythm but no inflection or character whatever. Imagine a robot voice reading a Shakespeare soliloquy; it was like that. When he launched into the cadenza, which is designed for the violinist to show off, I could hardly believe the bleak landscape.

Fortunately that didn't last too long. Ragazzi's publicists are always after me to cover them, but it's hard to review concerts consisting of 16 short pieces, and it's harder to schedule reviews of groups that don't put their schedule out at the beginning of the season. Since I wanted to go to this one anyway, I filed for a review; and the opportunity to hear good chorusing inspired B. to come along, once I had made a scouting visit and established there were handicapped parking spaces within a reasonable walk of the mission church, which is situated in the middle of the pedestrian-only section of the Jesuit university campus.

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