The Philadelphia Orchestra
James Gaffigan, conductor
Stewart Goodyear, piano
Verizon Hall, Philadelphia
March 10

piano virtuoso Stewart Goodyear

Rhythms Metropolis

James Gaffigan is becoming a high profile conductor on both sides of the Atlantic, he was recently named chief conductor of Lucerne Symphony, resident with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and is making several stateside debuts this year with the Atlanta Symphony, Los Angeles Phil and earlier this month with The Fab Phils. His program of Bernstein, Gershwin and Tchaikovsky may seem like well worn rep, but he gets to show many interpretive strengths, with splashy orchestral colors.

Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Suite from the film On the Waterfront can be a showpiece of cinematic dimension that completely satisfies, but Gaffigan and these players rightly go for more. Fine distinctions in the dissonance on the edges, and restraint in some of the effects that build an orchestral urban landscape. And musical respect for the jazz symphonia elements as opposed to jazzy, italicized ornamentation. Gaffigan also knows how to equalize and separate sounds dramatically, that built this to its explosive climax. Perhaps sonically overdone in the fortissimo, but by the end you could see Terry Malloy (aka Marlon Brando) walking bloodied up that ramp to defeat the bosses.

More moving drama followed with pianist Stewart Goodyear’s immersive performance of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue in the original arrangement by Ferde Grofe, reflecting Gershwin’s own performance when he first played it just weeks after composing. Goodyear accented its jazz chops that have gotten homogenized over the years, and again the maestro keep jagged the orchestral angles in this piece. Goodyear’s entrance stated a supple relationship with the orchestra and though he had Oscar Levant theatricality in moments, he was completely inside this interpretation of the Rhapsody.

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