Review by Danny Kert-Gaisin
According to the Gershwin’s ‘Crazy For You‘, the ‘Great American Folk Song is Rag’. I beg to differ- It’s the Western Theme song. Think of ‘The Big Valley’; “Gunsmoke”; ‘Davey Crockett’; High Noon” or ‘Bonanza’ and I’ll bet that the melodies pop immediately to mind. So, opening a Hamilton Philharmonic concert dedicated to USA’s musical icon Leonard Bernstein with Aaron Copland’s Rodeo is a super choice. The friendship between these two admirers lasted from 1932-until their deaths sixty-seven years later. This writer’s admiration for both was, and is, diverse but palpable. Copland taught at Rochester’s Eastman when cousin Barbara studied there;
I was a avid fan of Bernstein’s CBS radio programs ‘Young People’s Concerts’ from 1958-’60, making sure my Saturday & Sunday mornings were left free!
RODEO ( pronounced as in L. A’s. upscale Drive!) is an interpretive four-movement episodic work that thematically depicts aspects of an 1880’s cowboy’s existence. Maestra New incorporated creative phrasing and dramatic pauses to bring out every scintilla of portrait evocation. From gut-wrenching tenderness to the clip-clop tempi of galloping, one could almost smell the sagebrush. The 3rd section -Night Waltz, was so flawless & impeccable as to be worthy of the audience’s impulsive applause. The whole composition & its interpretation should have been recorded.
Speaking of a recording, this scribe hopes that someone (even surreptitiously) taped the second piece. Composer Ronald Royer was commissioned to write a work that would display the range and facility of the orchestra’s percussion section in honour of Jean-Normand Iadeluca‘s 47 years with the H.P.O.; and drummer Ernest Porthouse‘s thirty-seven. **Bias disclaimer** both gentlemen are on our speed-dials!
The timpani (kettledrum) can also be considered the metronome of an orchestra so even the slightest mis-cue or diversion from a conductor’s baton can screw up all of the on-stage musicians. Iadeluca is historically faultless as acknowledged by the program’s list of quoted comments by eight respected musicians; four of whom this scribe has previously critiqued – De Clara; Feldbrill; MacDonald & Gemma New herself.
Royer’s piece is exquisite. He has managed to include the classical style with modern down-East themes or melodies. Each section achieves the goal of showcasing the instruments and their instrumentalists. He’s incorporated a Danzón which is a Cuban dance whose popularity expanded to Mexico & Puerto Rico (see closing paragraph!). Then a Baroque sarabande that segues into a Maritime collage of dances and songs. Hopefully, this work will become a popular part of the repertoire.
Post-intermission, another Danzón, the 1994 #2 by Arturo Marquez. Then, the major work of the evening.- the Symphonic Dances from Bernstein’s “West Side Story”. In case there’s actually a reader unfamiliar with the work; its a modern take on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, but with a modern twist. This interpretation deals with the animosities faced by young Puerto Rican immigrants from the already settled New York white gangs in the Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood of New York City. U-Tube lists ‘West Side Story’ as one of Broadway’s Top Ten musicals, and most of it’s arias are popular even out of the play’s context. Unlike the overture, this suite omits some of the other memorable numbers that are lyrically derisive of some American attitudes, like “Officer Krepke’ & especially ‘♫ I like to Be in America ♪ ‘ this writer’s favourite sing-along piece from the play. However, the melodies from such popular stand-outs as “A Place for Us’; ‘MAMBO’; “Cool”; the Jets’ Theme; and of course ‘Maria” are all included. The presentation was so warmly and enthusiastically received as to merit an encore – Bernstein’s Candide overture. Fitting, & a perfect choice. This is another sure-fire O.A.R. Top Ten contender for 2018.
** Now for another bias history & my odd- by-line rationale.
My cousin, the late –Larry Kert was the original ‘Tony’ in the Broadway presentation; performing the role 732 times. His sister is Anita Ellis who dubbed the singing voices of Rita Hayworth; Vera Ellen & Jeanne Crain. I stayed with their father- Uncle Harry Kert, while yacht-racing in Long Beach, fall of 1985.
Larry died of AIDS, June of 1991.