Friday, July 29, 2011

NY Phil Finale at Vail

Badly stitched in a free iPhone app, but you get the idea
Click image to see larger version

It was a great night to see the NY Phil off from their visit to Vail. They finished their week with a night dedicated to Broadway. The weakest part of the program was a medley of Broadway hits in the second half. The rest of the concert was quite nice. Titled “New York and Paris,” it opened with a Military March by Saint-SaĆ«ns that I had never heard. A nice piece, brassier than one would expect from the composer.

The highlight of the first half was a performance of the Ravel Concerto in G by French Pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet. They made a big deal out of the fact that he was playing a new Yamaha piano, but it was much too bright in the midrange, I would have preferred to hear it on a Steinway. But the performance was quite nice. This is the third time I have heard this piece live though, so I was looking forward to the evening’s finale, Gershwin’s suite from Porgy and Bess, which he titled Catfish Row.

This was really wonderful to hear. It’s possibly the only Gershwin orchestral piece I had never heard live, and it was as moving and exciting as I had hoped. He did a nice job with the orchestration, something he is often criticized for. One can only imagine what would have happened if he had lived a full life. It was a nice finale to the series as well. After two quick encores, the festival was over, and now I have to wait a year to hear them again.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

NY Phil Plays Russian Composers

NY Phil gets a Standing “O” at Vail!
The New York Philharmonic took the stage again tonight in Vail to play some great Russian music. The show’s highlight was a performance of the overplayed Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto #1, although tonight featured a nice interpretation by Kirill Gerstein, who avoided the bombastic nature of the first movement and instead focussed on the subtlety of the second and third movements, playing quite beautifully. He also played a nice encore of Russian-American George Gerwhin’s “Embraceable You.” (Gershwin’s Concerto in F had been commissioned for the NY Phil.)

Conductor Bramwell Tovey has grown on me. The first two appearances I saw at the Hollywood Bowl did not wow me, but he has been much better at the Vail festival. He conducted quite beautifully on Khatchaturian’s Waltz from Masquerade Suite, knowing when to step aside and let the orchestra lead. The Glazunov Concert Waltz #2 was also quite nice.

The program finale was Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances. This was not a worthy finale for this concert, it might have been nicer to finish with the concerto. But that is a minor quibble. The thrill of hearing this orchestra in one of the most beautiful settings in the world makes it all worthwhile.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

NY Phil at Vail

This is the second consecutive year that we have come up to Vail to see the NY Phil. And today we celebrate our third anniversary of our move to Denver. This is a nice way to celebrate.

It was a nice concert. Starting with the Roman Carnival Overture of Berlioz, and moving to the Walton Violin Concerto, played with relish by Gil Shaham. He is very entertaining to watch and a very talented performer. The piece was much more interesting that I expected, as I’m not a huge fan of Walton. The piece had a lot of energy and rhythm; at one point I thought Shaham might start dancing!

But the real reason to show up was the performance of Pictures at an Exhibition. This has always been one of my favorite pieces, and Ravel’s orchestration is amazing. (Who else would double tuba with harp?) We heard sections last week with the CSO. It was great to hear the full piece tonight, but I have to say the the Colorado Symphony’s percussion section was much better. They did have the advantage of performing in a concert hall, where this performance was outdoors. It’s always odd to hear an orchestra with no reverb, it really points out all the smallest problems when the instruments are right in your face.

But it was a lot of fun. We will be back tomorrow.

Friday, July 22, 2011


I have been neglecting my blogging duties this summer. I will try to catch up on a few things I forgot to cover, starting tonight with the Russian Masterworks program at Boettcher hall, conducted by Scott O'Neill.

This was an absolutely fantastic program of 14 short works by Russian composers. All I could keep thinking throughout the concert was that those Russians were some badass orchestrators. The orchestra sounded great as always, but I always feel that O'Neill holds back as a conductor. Of course  the "Great Gate of Kiev" is a piece I have heard performed numerous times, including live with fireworks at the Hollywood Bowl, so everything since then feels like a letdown. (We will be seeing it yet again next week.) The best thing about this concert is that there was a very healthy audience. This is the first time the orchestra has done a real summer season; I hope they continue.

Two weeks ago we went to the Mozart concert in Arvada, another concert in their series. The Arvada venue is horrible. O'Neill did a nice job with this concert, but it was all pieces that we had heard during their regular season in Boettcher. I'm not sure why they did this concert again, especially in a crappy outdoor venue that is small and has horrible acoustics. It's also about 50 feet from a main street with lots of traffic noise. It was nice however to hear A Little Night Music.

The last concert of the regular season that we attended was one I was in, so I did not review it. I sand in the chorus for two short Wagner excerpts. It was fun, and I hope to have the time to do that more frequently, but their rehearsal schedule is crazy. The rest of the concert was opera without the staging, which is pretty boring to watch, although they had a good house at that concert as well.

That's it for summer with the CSO, for us at least, we will see them again in September.