Lexington Minuteman. May 6, 1999

Singers, Sinfonietta, combine for a memorable performance

By Art Ballou Correspondent

It was the first time The Master Singers of Lexington and the Lexington Sinfonietta had teamed up for a concert, but it is unlikely to have been the last. There was hardly a vacant seat in Cary Memorial Hall for the event Saturday night, and the standing ovation accorded the musicians at the program's end was clear indication that the patrons liked what they heard.

Adam Grossman was the conductor for the Master Singers, and Hisao Watanabe, its founder, for the Sinfonietta. The two-hour program highlighted the works of master composers Mendelssohn, Beethoven, and Franz Joseph Haydn.

Pianist Thomas Stumpf supplemented the music program with a brief description of some of Ludwig van Beethoven's habits. Beethoven, he said, was notoriously unpredictable and had an inclination to improvise. "He was a tough fellow and one never knew for sure what he was going to do."
He said that after his performance of Choral Fantasy, Beethoven never played in public again. "I hope that doesn't happen to me," Stumpf joked. Stumpf, Follen Church's director of music, is a long-time favorite of Lexington audiences, as well as being an international performing artist. The first portion of the Choral Fantasy was virtually a piano solo by Stumpf and it led to curtain calls for both Stumpf and Grossman before the Master Singers on the stage joined in.

The program opened with the Sinfonietta performing Felix Mendelssohn's "Fingal's Cave Overture" also known as the "Hebrides Overture" under the leadership of Watanabe. (The audience learned from the program that while some of his contemporaries found Fingal's Cave "entirely purposeless and a great waste," Mendelssohn thought it was fascinating.)

After intermission, Grossman directed the Master Singers in a rendition of the "Lord Nelson Mass" (Missa In Angustiis), a work that honored one of Great Britain's famed naval heroes. Critics have noted that several trumpet fanfares help lend a martial air to the performance. There were numerous solo renditions by soprano Epp Sonin, who is also founder and director of the Lexington Music School; mezzo-soprano Diana Cole, Follen Church soloist and operator of her own school in Arlington; tenor Mark Kagan, a featured performer with several Boston ensembles; and internationally renowned baritone Robert Honeysucker, who has performed in numerous operas -- "The Barber of Seville," "Aida," "Il Travatore," "La Boheme."

There were several curtain calls, topped with the standing O at the program's end.

Sarah Getty, president of The Master Singers at the time, termed the joint concert with the Sinfonietta a fitting climax to our 30th season. "We are proud of our contribution to the cultural life of Lexington and surrounding communities," she said.