Friday, July 26, 2013

Bramwell Tovey and the NY Phil in Vail

Rain cannot dampen the enthusiasm for the NY Phil
The penultimate orchestral concert of the Bravo Vail music festival was last night, featuring a group of works conducted by Bram Tovey, who is consistently one of the best conductors we see (having reviewed him several times before at Vail and the Hollywood Bowl; you can read those reviews here). The concert was delayed about 15 minutes due to a sudden heavy rain, but picked up well.

Tovey began with four dances from Copland's Rodeo, which was quite a nice way to start his part of the program. As expected, the orchestra played extremely well, although I think the acoustics of the Ford Amphitheater could still use a little more help from sound reinforcement; there is always a lack of low end, and some reverb would help as well. With no back wall on the stage, there is almost no reflected sound.

Tovey had thankfully remained silent until this point but when he lets loose, it is with full diarrhea of the mouth. The next piece was his own composition, so I will excuse him for talking about it. The Lincoln Tunnel Cabaret was a highlight of the evening, both in terms of its jazz-inflected composition, and its featuring of the Joseph Alessi as trombone soloist for the piece, which was essentially a trombone concerto.

The piece was an interesting composition yet also managed to play like a set of technical highlights for trombone. Alessi showed incredible control on a long series of lip trills, as well as perfect sound and intonation at both extremes of the register. He even threw in a few multiphonics at the end.

After intermission, Tovey spent what felt like half an hour discussing the Dvořák Symphony #8. It is indeed a great piece but I doubt anyone in the audience learned anything from his rambling analysis of it.

Another unexpected highlight of the evening came in the encore, the Hungarian Dance #5 of Brahms. This is really a conductor's showpiece, with a zillion pauses and tempo changes, and Tovey milked it for all it was worth, but in a good way. It was a great way to end the evening.

Tonight, the orchestral closer, The Planets, along with Gil Shaham playing the Sibelius Violin Concerto!
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