The Boston Herald
Conductor shows her mettle with Pro Arte
Music director Gisèle Ben-Dor returned to the podium of the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra for the first time this season on Sunday afternoon and reminded audiences once again that we see far too little of her. Her other orchestras in Annapolis and Santa Barbara, as well as a busy guest conducting schedule keep her from Boston, where her considerable accomplishments are always welcome.
Her program Sunday was highlighted by a performance of the Haydn Symphony No. 104 ("London"), surely one of the most familiar of pieces but performed with such verve, sparkle and spontaneity that it seemed almost newly made. Ben-Dor is not a conductor who looks at music with a skewed or eccentric sensibility, but she comes at a work with an innate sense of its rhythmic life, its internal logic, and its musical drama. The jokes and surprises all come off with perfect timing. A change of harmonies - like the switch from major to minor in the slow movement - immediately colors the atmosphere. The result is a naturalness, an inevitability and a freshness to the performance such as one heard here. The orchestra sounded at its best in this performance, the strings playing with a greater unanimity of intonation than they had all afternoon and the winds, Pro Arte's greatest asset, bringing home the laurels.