“The Brothers Haydn”, Music of the Baroque reviewed by Julia W. Rath

By Julia W. Rath, Around the Town Chicago
May 10, 2022

Music lovers generally have some familiarity with the works of Franz Joseph Haydn. But for all these years, where was younger brother Michael Haydn? Such was the question on the minds of concertgoers who attended last Sunday’s performance of “The Brothers Haydn” by the Music of the Baroque (MOB) at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, in Skokie. Though Michael worked a mundane job, he was a composer in his own right, and this program takes him out of the shadows and into the spotlight. His Symphony in E-flat Major, Perger 26, Sherman 34, MH 473 is presented alongside compositions by his older brother and his good friend Mozart. Especially notable in the performance of his symphony are solos by oboist Anne Bach and bassoonist William Buchman.

Preceding this work was Mozart’s Symphony N. 26 in E-flat Major K. 184, in three movements. This composition is notable for the clever changes in emphasis between beats 1 and 3 versus beats 2 and 4 throughout the performance. It is also noted for the Italian style of smooth transitions between movements.

These two symphonies (by Mozart and Michael Haydn) were sandwiched in between works by Franz Joseph Haydn. The one that led off the evening was his overture in C Major from the opera “Il mondo della luna” (“The World on the Moon), while the second half of the program was devoted in its entirety to his Creation Mass, Hob. XXII:13, written in 1801. The Mass featured four operatic singers Rebecca Farley (soprano), Meg Bragle (mezzo-soprano), Michael St. Peter (tenor), and Tyler Duncan (baritone). They were a beautiful blend of voices; no one overshadowed the other. The Mass was sung in Latin, and English translations found their way not only into the program but into supertitles which were projected above the chorus. Speaking of the chorus, it was interesting to hear how their lovely voices permeated the auditorium, even though they all wore masks. There was one singer, however, who occasionally took his mask off when he bolstered the male soloists and then quickly put it back on when he resumed being a part of the chorus. All the vocalists were sparkling, having been guided by Andrew Megill, who became MOB’s chorus master in April. A shoutout has to be made not only to him and the vocal soloists but also to organist Andrew Rosenblum for his splendid accompaniment—and of course, to the orchestra as a whole.

In all, this was an easy, well-balanced performance, conducted by Dame Jane Glover. At the end of the evening, there was a tribute to Charles Geyer on his retirement from MOB after 47 years, where he has been a co-principal trumpet player and soloist. The chorus held up “Thank You” in large letters, and conductor Glover gave him a big hug.

“The Brothers Haydn” was performed at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Boulevard, in Skokie, on Sunday, May 8, 2022, followed on Monday, May 9th by a performance at the Harris Theater, in Millennium Park, 205 W. Randolph Drive, in Chicago. Both concerts started at 7:30 p.m.

For more information about this and future performances of Music of the Baroque, including times, dates, and locations, please go to: https://www.baroque.org/.

Note that “The Brothers Haydn” is also available on demand from May 13 through June 13, 2022. Go to https://www.baroque.org/ to learn more about this and other on-demand offerings.

Music of the Baroque is a resident company of the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. To learn more about the venue, their future offerings, and ticket prices, visit: https://northshorecenter.org/.

To learn more about the Harris Theater, their future offerings, and ticket prices, go to: https://www.harristheaterchicago.org/.

These performing arts venues take part in a unified policy requiring patrons to present proof of full COVID-19 vaccination and an identification card. Properly worn face masks are required for all patrons regardless of vaccination status. For further information about COVID protocols at the various venues, visit: https://www.baroque.org/2022faq. Note that all these requirements are subject to change at any moment, depending on COVID rates in the community.