Goodwin leads bracing Baroque program with New World

By Lawrence Budmen

Paul Goodwin led the New World Symphony in music of Handel and Telemann Saturday night.

Paul Goodwin led the New World Symphony in music of Handel and Telemann Saturday night.

Every season the New World Symphony brings a period performance specialist to give the orchestral academy’s fellows a crash course on Baroque music. The success of this type of immersion depends on the rehearsal and teaching skills of the conductor. While several eminent early music maestros have taken the New World podium, only Nicholas McGegan and Bernard Labadie have fully succeeded in turning the young musicians into a stylish Baroque band.

Add Paul Goodwin to that list. On Saturday night at New World Center, Goodwin led a program that contrasted the Water Music suites of Telemann and Handel with rigor, authenticity and a real sense of fun.

In his opening comments Goodwin said he had spent the week working on turning the players into “a fantastic dance band.” Indeed dance and rhythm are the basis of many scores from the Baroque era. Goodwin’s readings sparkled with even the slow movements given firm rhythmic impetus. Emphasizing spare vibrato, bright timbres and crisp articulation, Goodwin indeed made this group sound like a wholly different ensemble.

Charm is probably the last word one would think of to describe the music of Georg Phillip Telemann. The prolific composer penned thousands of works that are often sober and formulaic, yet his Water Music–Ebb and Flow is an utter delight. Conceived as entertainment music, the score mixes dance forms with tonal depictions of the wavering sea at the port of Hamburg.

The suite’s introductory grandeur found Goodwin literally shaping a wave-like surge of sound, from the lower strings through the violins; the light sound of the woodwinds in the Allegro that followed was fully in synch with period practice. Two recorders added to the swaying flow of the Sarabande and the gutsy string attack brought lift to the BourrĂ©e. In the Aeolus section, Goodwin whipped up a storm at sea. The conductor added his own percussion with repeated foot stomps in the extroverted finale.

Comparing Telemann’s entertaining piece with Handel’s three suites of Water Music, written for King George’s boat parade down the Thames in 1717, shows the difference between talent and facility on one hand and genius on the other.

There was nothing stodgy or metronomic in Goodwin’s reading. Every movement was replete with character and myriad instrumental details brought to the fore that usually go unnoticed. He was unafraid to take liberties with tempos and to bend a phrase to expressive ends. Goodwin’s balancing was so deft that even a single flute was audible over the full string section.

Two horns and two trumpets seated on opposite sides of the stage produced bracing antiphonal dialogue. The famous Air was refreshingly unsentimental and brisk with firm rhythmic footing from the harpsichord and lower strings while the Hornpipe was taken at a more formal clip. The courtly final Menuet concluded a performance that gleamed from first to last. The precision and bite of the violins throughout was especially notable.

The program will be repeated 2 p.m. Sunday at the New World Center in Miami Beach.; 305-673-3331.

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Sun Nov 8, 2015
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