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Orchestral Music Review Print

Salisbury Symphony Pops Concert

May 2, 2009 - Salisbury, NC:

The Salisbury Symphony, under the direction of David Hagy, had a winner with its pops concert on Derby Day. Paying homage to the Kentucky Derby, the concert was replete with references to horses.

Opening the program was the Overture to Donna Diana, an opera by Emil Nikolaus von Rezniček (1860-1945). While Rezniček composed many operas and other works, he is best known today for this overture. Of course, most of us past a certain age recognize it as the theme song to the radio and TV show "Sergeant Preston of the Yukon." With a lively and spirited performance by the orchestra, we were, as they say, "Off and away!"

To pay due respect to the Derby's home state, the orchestra played a lovely rendition of Stephen Foster's (1826-1864) "My Old Kentucky Home," in an arrangement, written less than a week ago, by David Hagy.

As further fodder for racing fans, the orchestra performed Seattle Slew by William Bolcom (born 1938). Mr. Bolcom is an American composer and pianist, who received a Pulitzer Prize, the National Medal of Arts, and two Grammy Awards. Seattle Slew was, of course, the winner of racing's Triple Crown in 1977. The opening movement, "Horse Overture" is a galloping romp, and very "horsey." The following three movements, dedicated to the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont, respectively, were all very jazzy and spirited, and the orchestra gave a very sprightly performance.

The main event of the evening, although not horse related, was the Concerto for Chamber Orchestra and Jazz Piano Trio by Claude Bolling (born 1930). Bolling is a French jazz pianist, composer and arranger, and has composed a number of suites for jazz piano trio with soloist. These have included the likes of Jean-Pierre Rampal on flute, Yo-Yo Ma on cello, Maurice André and Guy Pederson on trumpet, just to name a few.

The jazz trio for this performance featured Federico Pivetta on piano, Matt Kendrick on bass, and Jakubu Griffin on drums. All three live in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, but have played together as a trio only once before. The concerto itself, at least the chamber orchestra part, is very baroque except for the rhythms. The work is in six movements, and in each, the jazz trio and orchestra toss themes back and forth, each with solos, and come together for some grand and lively tuttis.

This is a wonderfully exciting piece, with great feeling and texture in some of its movements, and energetic and vivacious jazz in others, all overlying the subtlety of the Bach-like themes. Matt Kendrick's bass playing was rapid-fire and secure, setting the foundation for the trio. Jakubu Griffin's percussion playing set the tempos, and was understated and delicate, although he did get to cut loose in one section, to everyone's delight. Mr. Pivetta's pianism was elegant and stylish. Of course, the chamber orchestra's playing was right on and "Oh, so fine!"

Bringing the concert to a rousing conclusion was the finale from "The William Tell Overture" by Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868). Little need be said about this piece, as we all know it as the theme to "The Lone Ranger." "Hi-yo, Silver!" and we were off to the races.