Hollywood Bowl veteran McGegan teams with 20-year-old talent Simone Porter for a winning night of Vivaldi

Simone Porter
Los Angeles Times

It’s as reliable as a sunrise: a Nicholas McGegan appearance at the Hollywood Bowl in August. The conductor was at his perennial Bowl gig again Thursday night, and as usual McGegan’s agenda was locked into the 18th century — all Vivaldi this time. Most of the Los Angeles Philharmonic had the night off, leaving a small crack division of string players, plus keyboard, oboe and baroque trumpet. The stage, though, was far from bare, with three singers, one young rising star violinist and the Pacific Chorale sharing the space with the Philharmonic from time to time. There were Vivaldi concertos, but not the four usual ones. Instead, McGegan led off each half of the program with a violin concerto from Opus 4, No. 3 in G, and No. 4 in A minor, part of a collection of 12 gathered under the zesty title “La Stravaganza.” Neither is very long, just around nine minutes each, but they do give the soloist a mini-workout.  

Violinist Simone Porter sounded remarkably mature when she played the Barber concerto here three years ago, and now, at just 20, her authority and expressive range have grown even more. Refusing to accept the limitations of period performance, she played happily and gracefully with a big, plush tone and lots of dynamic contrasts and drama. McGegan and his strings accompanied briskly, with plenty of brio. 

The bulk of the concert was taken up by a pair of Vivaldi sacred vocal works, the Stabat Mater to round out the first half and to finish the evening, the Gloria. The mostly dark, mostly lugubrious Stabat Mater — not exactly ideal fare for the famously easygoing, alfresco dining ambience of the Bowl — was nevertheless a grateful vehicle for the expressive, soothing, beautiful timbre of the English countertenor Tim Mead. 

Read the rest of the review here