Review | Santa Barbara Symphony, ‘Royal Fireworks’

Nicholas McGegan Conducted Four Works from the 18th Century

Nic McGegan | Credit: Laura Barisonzi

Presented by Santa Barbara Symphony. At The Granada Theatre, Sun., Nov. 14.

Years of experience leading many of the world’s greatest orchestras through the music of the 18th century have given maestro Nicholas McGegan perfect pitch when it comes to speaking from the podium. His introductory remarks at this recent Sunday matinee performance with the Santa Barbara Symphony were models of balance — equal parts erudition, wit, and warmth. Describing the opening sequence of dances drawn from the opera Naïs by Jean-Philippe Rameau, McGegan delineated the historical context the work shares with George Frideric Handel’s Royal Fireworks Music, the final piece of the program, through a contrast between French and English modes of celebration. In France, the signing of a peace treaty called for a mixture of music, song, and ballet. In England, the king was pleased to pair his concert with explosions. The surprise was that the French work called for sound effects courtesy of a thunder-making panel and a rotating paper contraption that mimicked the noise of rain. In the last piece, explicitly titled “Fireworks,” a timpani did the trick.

Santa Barbara Symphony principal violist Erik Rynearson played Telemann’s Viola Concerto in G Major beautifully to close out the first half. After the intermission, the Symphony’s concertmaster, Jessica Guideri, performed the violin solos in Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G Major, BWV 1048, with vigor and exactitude. As a finale to the first full orchestral concert of the season, the Royal Fireworks Music made a superb choice: festive, majestic, and inspiring. 

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