Monday, January 15, 2018

Oundjian is a keeper...

As part of its recognition of the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth, the ASO has scheduled several of his works throughout the year. It provides a great opportunity to hear and assess the works of the quintessential American composer, who, in recent years, is not heard quite as frequently as he once was. Bernstein’s strength was that he synthesized the cultural atmosphere of the time (including Pop music and Jazz) and applied the rigors of his musical genius to morph it into pieces for large orchestras. In contrast to other composers who delicately incorporated folk or Pop music into their works, Bernstein’s references are not subtle – he doesn’t just include themes or melodies – he adopts the energy, instrumentation, rhythms and colors of the popular culture. The Three Dance Variations from Fancy Free are good examples of the way in which this music, composed in 1944, is musically linked to the 1940s New York City zeitgeist. This, combined with his fairly limited orchestral palette, results in many pieces that often sound strikingly similar. The Dance Variations are bright, brassy, bold and rhythmically driven, but all too sonically familiar to anyone who has heard Bernstein’s other compositions. The Variations pieces were composed for the Ballet Theater and choreographer Jerome Robbins, and were the musical backdrop for three men competing to impress their female audience by each individually dancing a gallop, a waltz, and a danzon. Oundjian kept a brisk pace throughout the work and the ASO performed with enthusiasm, which ratcheted up the music’s already high energy.  For the complete review, go here:

Photo credit:  Dane Sponberg.

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