Orchestra brings some jazz to performance

Albany Symphony Orchestra conductor David Alan Miller likes Morton Gould’s music so much he recorded

Albany Symphony Orchestra conductor David Alan Miller likes Morton Gould’s music so much he recorded the two pieces the ASO performed Friday night at the Palace Theatre. Since the night was “Inspired by Jazz,” George Gershwin’s own arrangement of his “Porgy and Bess” and Ravel’s Concerto with the pianist Joyce Yang, were also performed.

All the works were written in the 1930s, Miller told the huge crowd, and the Gould works particularly reflected that era. “Chorale and Fugue in Jazz” was the product of a “cheeky, extravagant 20-year-old,” Miller said. Because the piece has never had a full hearing, the performance was something of a world premiere. It was bold, colorful, exuberant and very tricky with all the jazz inflection and unexpected rhythms. Miller was the epitome of precision and the orchestra did well, but it wasn’t entirely relaxed.

It was much more comfortable for the Ravel. Yang, who won the silver medal at the 2005 Van Cliburn competition, wears her mantle well. This was her third appearance with the orchestra — the other two were pre-Cliburn, and she’s grown substantially as a performer. Yang was very sure-footed with snappy gestures and a confident mien. She sang the melodies well, played with great concentration and much quiet elegance. Her technique dazzled.

Miller was a strong partner and tended the balances with care. Yang took an encore, which showed more of what she can do, and most excitingly. Her choice was Listz’ transcription of Chopin’s voice and piano song, “My Joy.”

Yang stroked the keys with great tenderness, her many fluid and fast scalar runs were light as feathers. She made beautiful arches of the sweet melody. It was quite wonderful playing.

Gould’s “American Symphonette No. 3” was written only a few years after his Chorale, but it showed how much he’d improved as an orchestrator. It was tighter, leaner, incorporated the jazz style more effectively and had excellent writing for the various sections. Each of the four movements had character. Where the Chorale had intimations of Gershwin and Negro spirituals, this work was all Gould. He’d found his voice. The ASO performed the work with great panache.

Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess Suite: Catfish Row” was also wonderfully orchestrated with all the folk opera’s fabulous songs. The orchestra had a great time. Concertmistress Jill Levy sounded especially eloquent in “Summertime.”

The final concert of the season is 7:30 p.m. May 17 with Albany Pro Musica in Beethoven and Chang.

Categories: Life and Arts

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