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Review: Cape Symphony gets year off to fun start

01.02.15
Peter Schickele
Cape Cod Times

HYANNIS – Oh, if only we could model our new year on the example set by the Cape Symphony with its “New Year’s Day Party.”

For starters, it would be filled with surprises.

Who could imagine, for example, that two lovely operatic sopranos like Kara Cornell and Margot Rood would get into the party spirit. But there was Cornell, coming out with a huge champagne glass and boozily tripping through “To Each Their Own” from “Die Fledermaus.” She was followed by Rood, slyly offering “I Want to be a Prima Donna” from Victor Herbert’s “The Enchantress.”

And then, after a lovely rendering of “O Lovely Peace” from Handel’s “Judas Maccabeus,” the two women faced off in a hilarious “Cat Duet,” complete with high notes and hissing.

With the symphony as our example, the new year also would be a reminder of how much happier we are when we are in harmony.

The orchestra was in lovely form Thursday afternoon, swaying easily from Broadway (“I Could Have Danced All Night”) to a beautiful rendition of “Auld Lang Syne.” And the unusual fact of having two sopranos on stage (conductor Jung-Ho Pak jokingly called it a “dangerous” move) allowed for some particularly sweet duets, including the “Flower Duet” from Leo Delibes’ “Lakme” to the always-tears-producing “For Good” from Broadway’s “Wicked.”

And there was plenty of wonderful, wonderful Strauss -- Junior and Senior -- from the opening trumpets of “Off on Holiday!” to the closing violin strains of “On the Beautiful Blue Danube” and the “Radetzky March.”

The new year, symphony-style, would also be just plain fun.

The smart decision to bring composer and musical satirist Peter Schickele, the “discoverer” of the long-buried music of P.D.Q. Bach (Johann Sebastian’s “surprisingly untalented” son) as well as the host, for many years, of public radio’s “Schikele Mix,” brought waves of laughter from the sold-out crowd, particularly as he introduced his famous “1712 Overture (For Really Big Orchestras)” – the one Tchaikovsky stole to make ... well, you know, the one that gets more attention. Pak, not one to shy away from a little theatricality, and his orchestra looked like they were having a blast playing on kazoos, popping balloons (instead of cannons) and hamming it up to Schickele’s amusing variations. Pak taking a selfie with concertmaster Jae Cosmos Lee during an excruciatingly long organ section of the overture is an image not soon to be forgotten.

Finally, if we followed the symphony’s lead, our new year would have, at its center, a good and giving heart.

All symphonies enrich their communities with music, but it is the generous ones that seek to provide a balance of the old and the new, the standard and the unexpected, the classic and the quirky.

In his banter with Pak before the orchestra played his very sweet “What Did You Do Today at Jeffey’s House?” Schickele noted that one of the things he admired about modern music was that there was “not this feeling that there’s one correct path.”

A program that moves bravely from waltzes and opera to farcical duets, from the hilarious “The Mule” round from P.D.Q. Bach to a classic, inspiring version of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” honors that notion, and the Cape community is better for it.