Billed as a "Hungarian Excursion," the season finale of the Berkeley symphony was mostly for us a trek to the East Bay: we had meant to check out the orchestra since the relatively new music director Joana Carneiro replaced Kent Nagano in 2009, and what tickled us in this program was the premiere of a new mini twenty-minutes oratorio by Berkeley composer Gabriela Lena Frank. Hungary, shmungary, it was the local aspect that drew us in.
Half of our plan fizzled when Carneiro bailed due to a shoulder injury. We were told from the stage she gamely tried to rehearse the orchestra. When it became obvious she was too impaired, they scrambled to find a replacement. Namely, Edwin Outwater, familiar in these waters for his time as Resident Conductor with the SF Symphony, for a bunch of Peter & the Wolf concerts with the SFS Youth orchestra, and now music director of the resurrected Kitchener-Waterloo orchestra in Canada.
It's mildly ironic: Gabriela's piece about women in the Bible --"Holy Sisters"-- came out of the collaboration between Gabriela, Joana and soprano Jessica Rivera. They're not sisters, but kindred spirits. "BFF" is the technical term used by Gabriela, and the program insert insist on their friendship: a theme in the piece was written by Gabriela and sung by Jessica for Joana's wedding. And at the darkest hour, here comes their savior, Edwin, walking on water.