The Schenectady Symphony Orchestra under conductor Charles Schneider never sounded better in its final concert of the season Sunday afternoon at Proctors.
It was an all-American composed concert, which included a performance of Schenectady County Community College music professor Brett Wery’s “Three Canvases.” Wery told the large crowd that different painting techniques inspired his musical choices for the three movements.
Although the piece was not too long, it was lengthy enough to hear that Wery has a strong lyrical sense, knows how to orchestrate with interesting textures and uses dark harmonies dramatically. He tended, however, to write in blocks for various sections, which was occasionally disruptive. Just when he was moving along nicely with a lovely lyrical passage or some catchy rhythms, he’d drop everything and do something else. He also ended each movement abruptly. Despite this carping, the work was pretty and showed Wery has possibilities.
Before Wery’s piece, the orchestra got off to a strong start with Ives’ Variations on “America.” Ives had fun with this song and gleefully reshaped it in multiple ways from a tango to a carnival to an operatic theme all the while changing the colors, the meters, the voicings. It was quirky and sounded fresh as a daisy.
Copland’s “John Henry: A Railroad Ballad” was atypical Copland that didn’t gel. The orchestra wasn’t sure either. It sounded a bit shaky.
Thomson’s “Symphony on a Hymn Tune” had four movements that sounded like a piece looking for its center. Odd combinations of instruments, deliberate dissonance, a lack of continuity among myriad sections, melodies at odds with each other and numerous styles were tossed together hither and yon.
Schneider kept strict time and cued with marvelous precision, but there was no helping the score.
Fortunately, George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F Major saved the day with a sparkling performance from Young Kim, a music professor at The College of Saint Rose.
Kim gave a poetic interpretation to the three movements with well sung melodies, clean technique and a pacing that allowed her to shape the music into delicately etched arches. Her playing showed much thought. Not a note or nuance was out of control.
Kim also took the role of collaborator rather than star, which made for seamless connections.
Schneider kept the balances tight and the orchestra supported Kim with a terrific, stylish and buoyant sound.
The audience, which was full of Kim’s students, jumped to its feet with elation and she received three bouquets.
At intermission, Marie Gorman, president of the SSO’s League, received the 2008 Encore Award for outstanding service.