Mann Center | June 28

Maestro Giancarlo Guerrero exuded warmth in his brief introductory remarks about the popularity of the two work works he was about to conduct. This was also the first of three performances by the Fab Phils, in a shortened 2011 home summer series at the outdoor Mann Center.

Guerrero left some audience members scratching their heads, when he launched into Mendelssohn, skipping the first piece listed in the program, Eugene Ormandy’s arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner, as is tradition. Guerrero immediately rapturous in the allegro of the Italian, but it was in the second movement, showed his accents and range– drawing out the shadows, and a pulsing orchestral drive that may have even been paying homage to Rossini, woodwinds just draw you closer to the inner beauty of the piece and the strings sonorous tones bathing the environs.

The Mann is an outdoor amphitheater, but even with its v-shell, sound projection can be a problem. When the air is sultry, as it was on this night, it can make for squirrelly sound equalizing. Guerrero seemed to be addressing that right up front with Mendelssohn, launching it with grand esprit and precision.

The climaxes were fast and furious for the marquee event that followed and Guerrero didn’t hold anything back in the Fortuna opening of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, from the start he set it at sonic boom range– The Philadelphia Singers were orgiastic, the percussion maniacally concussive. Guerrero introduced the piece by saying it was Orff’s one hit wonder. Guerrero could drive home the drama, but let chunks of the rest of it slip away from him.

Orff’s musical vignettes tend to stand alone, and inventive pacing to make it a cohesive whole, is crucial. Guerrero speeded up the bombastic sections, making them all the more thrilling, even verging on militaristic, but, unlike the Mendelssohn, he was not able to bring much dimension to the quieter passages. The forward narrative remained disjointed, the sum of its parts. There are very bumpy transitions built into this piece, the most cohesive thing about it is the chorus. This performance seemed to point up how it relies on the opening and closing hooks to make it.

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