Walter Waugaman
Here is the review published in the Philadelphia Inquirer today with which I completely and emphatically agree. I must add three more observations.

First, the pianissimo passages in the second movement of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto were the softest that I have heard from this orchestra in a long time or so it seems, but yet clearly audible in my seat in the first row of the third tier. I would describe them as piano pianissimo (PPP) if there is such a thing. I noticed that it seemed to have a magical effect on the audience. Even though it was extremely soft, I could hear the clarinet just above the orchestra.

Second, Juliette Kang was the Concert Master for this concert and she played the solo passage in the first movement of the Bach Orchestral Suite No. 3 marvelously and with absolute perfection!

Third, the whole concert was played in the baroque and early classical with what musicians sometimes call "straight tone" ie., without vibrato which I sometimes don't like, but the music selected for this program lent its self well to this playing style. So with this and the orchestra's very skillful attention to dynamics, articulation, and phrasing, I didn't miss the vibrato. I think this takes the very best and most skillful playing to accomplish.

I noticed as I was leaving after the concert was over that people were smiling and amicably chatting much more so than I have seen in a long time, even on the sidewalk outside the hall.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Posted on Sat, Jan. 9, 2010

As soloist too, Morales makes it count
By Peter Dobrin
Inquirer Classical Music Critic

It's startling to realize how much a single orchestral player can lift up everything going on around him or her, and no arrival has been better for the ensemble health of the Philadelphia Orchestra than that, in 2003, of Ricardo Morales. The principal clarinetist, in fact, may represent the most salutary personnel event of the orchestra's last decade.

An ensemble player, however, does not a soloist make. The skills of the two jobs are not merely distinct, they're at opposite ends of the individuality spectrum. So when Morales took the spotlight Thursday night in Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, a question lurked in the shadows: Would he actually have something compelling to say?

Some listeners were likely sold after hearing Morales' unusual fluidity. Others were no doubt charmed by his soft tongue and deftly tapered phrasing. I suppose what heightened my reaction from admiration for a certain kind of perfection to unbounded love was Morales' musicality in a piece so popular that he might have stopped feeling it long ago. Not a note passed between Morales and Mozart that wasn't deeply meant.
You could hear his colleagues creating the most sensitive of support systems. Morales conveys elation in a sound that preserves the pungent, naturalistic tone of the instrument without violating his own innate sense of refinement, and the orchestra responded in kind. There was also a crisp immediacy to the ensemble sound (not always a given in the group) under the direction of Bernard Labadie.

The Quebec-born conductor led what was for this orchestra a slightly unusual packaging of baroque and classical standards. Mozart was paired with Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks, and after intermission Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major was followed by Haydn's Symphony No. 94 in G major, "Surprise."
Familiar tunes, all. This is the kind of grouping you could find at one of the orchestra's June "Best of" concerts. But Labadie is serious about details - dynamics, articulation, phrasing. And his preparation work created what is often elusive when this orchestra wades into baroque and classical repertoire: a convincing merger of modest early-music techniques and that saturated, blended sound that remains one of the most vivid elements of the Philadelphia personality.
Posted on 10 Jan 2010, 4:50 AM