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ASO’s Miller gets grand birthday bash

ASO’s Miller gets grand birthday bash

David Alan Miller, the Albany Symphony Orchestra’s music director, can put Saturday night’s concert

David Alan Miller, the Albany Symphony Orchestra’s music director, can put Saturday night’s concert at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in his memory book.

The concert was in celebration of his 50th birthday, so there was hoopla aplenty with a program that featured the kind of colors and variety of music that Miller loves. The evening’s mood was especially convivial, which made everyone feel that they were among friends.

The Pineiro Nagy Guitar Ensemble, which included Nagy, Pedro Luis and Miguel Viera da Silva, was featured in four works with a small string orchestra. Miller has known Nagy for eight years through Miller’s conducting duties at the Estoril, Portugal, music festival. They played lilting, tranquil works that included Granados’ “Intermezzo de l’opera Goyescas,” Albeniz’s “Suite Espanola,” his famous “Chants d’Espagne” and a new work from Italian composer Alberto Colla, “Nocturnal Tears.”

Except for the second movement of the Albeniz piece and his “Chants,” in which the guitarists did some active fingerwork, a little strumming and picked up the volume a bit, everything was melodic and gently sung. Miller kept the strings in good balances. The Colla piece, which included a few brass players, was interesting as it built shimmering kinds of cloud clusters over long lines. Bouquets were given all around.

Although the guitarists were obviously skilled, the pieces evoked a bit too much of the same kind of atmosphere. Perhaps that was deliberate, because after intermission the Dogs of Desire took over with David Mallamud’s marvelously stylish “Last Call at the Follies Bergere.” The 18-member ensemble, which includes versatile vocalists Alexandre Sweeton and Kamala Sankaram, usually plays only at the regular American music festival, so this gave the crowd a peek into the kind of razzmatazz sort of stuff it can do.

The Mallamud was a sensational introduction. Although it’s original music, it sounded like the score came right from the orchestra pit at the Follies with all the flavor of that French music hall. The Dogs and Miller had a fun time and played with great style, verve and edge.

Then, in a surprise, after ASO board chairman Steve Lobel presented a birthday cake with lit candles to Miller, along with plaudits from Lobel and executive director Brian Ritter, Ritter took the podium to conduct Mallamud’s arrangement of Paul Simon’s “Old.” The capacity crowd then stood and sang “Happy Birthday.” Miller blew the candles out and it was on to the second intermission.

Miller and the orchestra impressively performed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 in B-flat Major with care, precision, refinement of phrasing and subtlety of dynamics. A great job.

The next ASO concert is March 12 also in Troy.

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