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New York, New York: New York Philharmonic, Summertime Classics

- Classical and Cultural Connections

New York Philharmonic

(Summertime Classics Website)
New York, New York

Lorin Maazel, Music Director

Bramwell Tovey, Conductor
Thomas Stacy, English Horn
Thomas V. Smith, Trumpet
Stanley Drucker, Clarinet

Performed at Avery Fisher Hall
Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 3, 2005

(Read More NY Philharmonic Summertime Classics Reviews).

John Kander (b. 1927): New York, New York (1977, arr. 2003). The NY Philharmonic first played this song in 2003 under Lorin Maazel and last played it only one month later. The work was composed as title song of the film. Kander is a prolific writer of film, Broadway, and television scores. This song was made famous by Liza Minelli and Frank Sinatra. (Program Notes).

The effervescent and entertaining Bramwell Tovey apologized for bad British behavior that caused July 4 events to have occurred. His early monologue was so well-timed and professional, one wonders if he appears onstage in London theatre, as well.

New York, New York was never played with such creativity and class. Both Minelli and Sinatra would be proud. Even the most seasoned members of the orchestra wore enormous grins.

Gershwin (1898-1937): Walking the Dog (1937). The NY Philharmonic first performed this song in 1963, led by Kostelanetz, and most recently in 1993, under Slatkin. This song was written by a most prolific George Gershwin, for RKOís Shall We Dance, specifically for an Astaire-Rogers scene. (Program Notes).

It is time to rent Shall We Dance, the Astaire-Rogers version, that is, just to hear this piece, once called Promenade, when it was a piano solo. The pizzicato violins exuded charm and choreographic dance imagery.

Bernstein (1918-1990): On the Waterfront, Symphonic Suite from the Film (1954). Bernstein first conducted the NY Philharmonic in this score, and it was last heard here in April 2005. Bernstein debuted as a film composer in Elia Kazanís 1954 film, and this score became the quintessential ďNew York soundĒ, although the Oscar was elusive. (Program Notes).

Hereís another film to rent. Bernstein surprisingly did not win the Oscar for this score, which generates so much feeling of urban angst and action. The dissonant, daring, and devilish score included soft, rapid passages, with sharp edge and metaphorical, dark shadows. Horns interchange with strings for steamy, wailing effects. There were moments, when I heard elements of the balletic, West Side Story, with Bernsteinís musical street sense.

L. Anderson (1908-75): Fiddle-Faddle (1947), The Penny-Whistle Song (1951), Buglerís Holiday (1954). These works, respectively, were first performed by NY Philharmonic in 1958, tonight, and one time only in 1993. Fiddle-Faddle was last performed here in 1981. Anderson, like Bernstein, hailed from Massachusetts and directed the Harvard University Band from 1931-35. Anderson composed a theme used by The Late Show in the early 50ís. (Program Notes).

These three works evoked two dances, with Fiddle-Faddle as quick step, The Penny-Whistle Song as foxtrot, and Buglerís Holiday as quick step once more. Thomas V. Smith, Vincent Penzarella, and Kenneth DeCarlo (guest) gave Buglerís Holiday added pizzazz and heat. This trio of short works was quite fitting for the patriotic holiday theme.

Copland (1900-90): Quiet City (1939/40), Thomas Stacy, Thomas V. Smith. The NY Philharmonic first performed this work in 1942, under Koussevitsky, and most recently in 1999, under Alsop. This piece was composed for the theatre, to be presented by a chamber quartet, but the play closed quickly. Copland re-structured the work for a small orchestra of English horn, trumpet, and strings. (Program Notes).

Thomas V. Smith made his NY Philharmonic debut today on trumpet (filling in for the ill Philip Smith), and Thomas Stacy played English horn, somewhat akin to the oboe. The two horns were at first eery, but comforting, and there were many pregnant pauses and short silences. The solo strings were powerful and percussive, before one elongated note on the English horn finally faded into thin air. Thomas V. Smith received warm accolades, as did Thomas Stacy, as well, with continued, hearty applause.

Bernstein (1918-90): Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs (1949/1955), Stanley Drucker on Clarinet. The NY Philharmonic first presented this piece in 1988, under Davis, and, most recently, in 1993, under Slatkin. Bernstein first composed this work for Woody Hermanís jazz band, but the band dissolved. He then planned to include it in Wonderful Town, but it did not fit. Finally, he was able to use it for CBSí Omnibus, and Benny Goodman played solo clarinet. (Program Notes).

After a fascinating and frenetic change of onstage furniture, the New York Philharmonic became a buoyant Big Band, with piano left stage and a full brass jazz ensemble, facing the audience, dance band style. Maestro Tovey was radiant, as he led trumpet guest artists (Kenneth de Carlo, Chris Jaudis, and Michael Baker) along with Philharmonic trumpet players, Vincent Panzarella and Thomas V. Smith. He referred to the saxophone guest artists in humorous jazz speak (Al Regni, Ted Nash, David Carroll, Dan Goble, and Roger Rosenberg). To complete the ensemble, I saw a xylophone and muted trombone, among other jazz band instruments. Stanley Drucker, principal clarinetist with the NY Philharmonic for over 50 years, played solo clarinet virtuosically and vivaciously.

A dissonant, racing melody was esoteric and Oh, so Broadway, Oh, so Bernstein. The xylophone entered with unrestrained accents, and Stanley Drucker was clearly the bravura performer, with long-winded and energetic excitement. For an encore, the band treated us to Glenn Millerís In the Mood, and Fisher Hall went wild. Clearly, this was a Holiday treat to remember, thanks to Maestro Bramwell Tovey and the New York Philharmonic.

Additional NY Philharmonic Summertime Classics concerts will be presented July 7 through July 10, 2005.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at