Music review: Albany Symphony takes flight with Rachmaninoff after uneven start

By | November 14, 2022

The Albany Symphony Orchestra offered a Saturday live performance on the Palace Theater in a program of nice selection however with generally uneven outcomes.

They began with Duke Ellington’s sequel to “The River”. Commissioned in 1970 by the American Ballet Theater from choreographer Alvin Ailey, Ellington wrote 12 actions of which Ailey used solely seven. The ASO, nevertheless, carried out solely 5. All are impressed by water or the course of a stream by way of totally different phases, equivalent to a waterfall, whirlpool or rapids.

For folks accustomed to Ellington’s jazz items, this work is completely totally different. Solely one of many actions, quantity three, would fulfill jazz followers with its harmonies, brass riffs, use of drums, and perky vibe. It seems that this motion was to symbolize “Fast Giggles”.

The opposite actions, which had been one, 4, 5 and 7, had been wildly totally different in model, concord, shade, tempo and the whole lot else. The work opened with quick strains and dissonance for “Spring”. 4 was an unique “Lake” with basses, flutes, a smudge of cymbals, trombones in opposition to plucked cellos, maracas and a stunning romantic melody that sounded so much like movie music. 5 was a quick, brief “Vortex” with rippling snare crackles. Seven had a horn choir which the strings later took over for “Village of the Virgins.”

One can solely think about what Ailey did with the music, which appeared to create extra of a vibe than one thing to bop to. The orchestra led by music director David Alan Miller did not appear completely snug, maybe as a result of there was little continuity inside and between segments.

Issues went higher in Joel Thompson’s “To Awaken the Sleeper,” which premiered August 2021 in Colorado. Impressed by phrases written by James Baldwin over a interval from 1970 to 1986, the work required a narrator, which Thompson supplied from reminiscence. The texts he has chosen are surprisingly well timed and considerate about race, democracy, migrants within the halls of justice, and the necessity for a brand new morality.

The music ranged from raucous chaos to lyrical settings. For probably the most half, Thompson’s resonant baritone gained out. The orchestra sounded good. The viewers responded with cheers, whistles and a standing ovation from many.

Nevertheless, it’s in Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Symphonic Dances” that the orchestra takes off. They had been fabulous on this extremely troublesome three-movement work, which Rachmaninoff wrote in 1941. It was his final composition and a wonderful masterpiece. The half’s writing, which was exceptionally clear, was impressed and exquisite. His use of shade, rhythm, his attribute romantic lyricism with melodies that keep within the ear, even the moods had been vibrant.

Miller led with ardour and precision. There was exuberance even from the gamers, who had been challenged by the items and dug in.

Every motion had its personal language. Within the first, after a vigorous and rhythmic variety of bars from the entire orchestra, the woodwinds took over on their very own. In an impressed selection, Rachmaninoff had a saxophone because the melodic thread in a comfortable, flowing melody earlier than the strings took it over.

The second motion was a seductive waltz with swirling reeds, a sultry English horn solo with gentle strings, and Miller coaxing and pushing the tempos by way of the composer’s surprising moments.

The finale was stuffed with shade and vibrancy because it ended robust. The group cherished it, as did Miller, who roamed your entire orchestra praising every part.

December 10 and 11 are the classics of the Holidays in Troy with Bach, Mozart and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson.

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