Saturday, September 21, 2013

Branford Marsalis and the Colorado Symphony

Branford opened the Colorado Symphony's season with conductor Andrew Litton tonight. I was not as excited as I should have been for the concert, not because I do not like Branford (we worked together on several projects), but because I'm not a huge fan of the Glazunov Concerto, which we hear him play three years ago in Vail with the NY Phil (reviewed here). Branford once again played perfectly; his Classical sound and vibrato are really sounding exceptional. Perhaps I am getting used to the piece but I enjoyed it a lot more tonight.

Context is also different, as tonight his second piece was a mini-concerto from John Williams based on the music from Catch Me If You Can.  This is one of my favorite Williams scores of recent years, and one I thought deserved a lot more recognition than it got. The piece really features three instruments, not just sax, it also features vibraphone heavily, as well as jazz bass (which was completely lost in the acoustics of the hall tonight). The vibes part is at least as challenging and as featured as the sax, so I found it odd that they did not feature the names of the other two in the program. It was a great piece. I'm a little sorry that Branford did not do an encore, but it was a bit of a long program.

The evening had opened with Borodin's Overture to Prince Igor, a piece which was saved by Glazunov and Rimsky-Korsakov. (Borodin was a scientist by trade and wrote music solely for pleasure.) After intermission, the orchestra played the Symphony #10 of Shostakovich. I've always felt his best symphonies are the multiples of five (kind of like the good Star Trek films are the even-numbered one). I hadn't heard this one in a while. It has moments of bombast, but since Stalin had died when he started writing this one, it also has a lot of depth in the first movement that otherwise may have been edited out to keep the Communist party happy. I do still enjoy this work quite a bit. But it did make for a long evening. The orchestra played extremely well, especially the percussion section, and Litton really is an outstanding conductor. He gets the best from the orchestra, just like his predecessor, Jeffrey Kahane.

I do look forward to our next concert in a few weeks.

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