[Dixielandjazz] Even the NY Philharmonic does Nostalgia with Popular Music of the 1930s to the 50s
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Tue Jan 2 09:47:29 PST 2007
Celebrating Movie Musicals That Are Never Out of Date
NY TIMES - By ALLAN KOZINN - January 2, 2007
You can¹t accuse the New York Philharmonic of not having a sense of
occasion. As it often does, the orchestra set aside the formalities of the
classical repertory on New Year¹s Eve in favor of lighter fare, although
this time another kind of formality was evident. With Audra McDonald in the
spotlight, her regular conductor, Ted Sperling, on the podium, and a jazz
rhythm section deployed within the orchestra, the Philharmonic offered an
evening of songs drawn mostly from film musicals of the 1930s through the
It was a program steeped in nostalgia for a time that, with increasing
distance and the rapid pace of change, is taking on a patina of elegance,
which was reflected in the staging. Four Art Deco panels surrounding the
orchestra, along with a few oversize, 1940s-style spotlights and a glittery
curtain behind the players, created the look of a ballroom stage as it might
have been depicted in a vintage film.
The women in the orchestra wore bright colors, and the men wore standard
concert dress, which is sufficiently old-fashioned to suit the stage picture
created by Lonny Price, the production supervisor. And although they were
technologically anachronistic, the ³Live From Lincoln Center² cameras that
occasionally reared up on the stage seemed, for once, at home in this
picture rather than an imposition.
Ms. McDonald approached her repertory mostly as a celebration of film music
she loves, and occasionally when singing Judy Garland classics like
³Somewhere Over the Rainbow² and ³The Man That Got Away² with a reverence
that seemed overstated. Yes, the originals were fantastic, perhaps even
unmatchable. But if you believe that these songs have lives of their own (as
any singer of this material must), you might as well sing them
Ms. McDonald staked out her own interpretive ground in this material. In
³Somewhere Over the Rainbow,² ³As Time Goes By² and ³Moon River² her
phrasing was thoroughly personalized, with rhythms subtly altered and a
thoughtful delivery that illuminated the lyrics.
The arrangements were often personalized as well. Although most had a
big-band flavor that reflected their eras and justified the Philharmonic
musicians, for the songs that seemed to mean the most to her, Ms. McDonald
opted for lighter support.
For ³Somewhere Over the Rainbow² and ³Edelweiss,² that was Kevin Kuhn¹s solo
guitar (with Glenn Dicterow, the concertmaster, adding a sweet-toned violin
solo on ³Edelweiss²). For ³As Time Goes By,² it was piano, played by Lee
Musiker, and for her zesty account of ³I Wish I Were in Love Again,² she was
accompanied by Mr. Musiker and Mr. Sperling, performing as a piano duo.
Ms. McDonald, curiously, was at her least moving in slow, intimate music,
her thoughtful restructuring notwithstanding. In more energetic music, like
the virtuosic patter song ³I Can¹t Stop Talking About Him,² her alternately
sultry and humorous account of ³I Double Dare You² and her bright (if brief)
rendering of ³Singin¹ in the Rain,² she was immeasurably more effective, and
her sound was more varied as well.
The Philharmonic musicians played energetically when the music invited it,
and its brass players in particular seemed in their element, as if they
secretly wished they were working for Wynton Marsalis instead of Lorin
Maazel. Mr. Sperling led them in two pieces without Ms. McDonald: ³The Night
They Invented Champagne,² as an overture to the program, and ³Dancing in the
Dark² during her gown change.
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