Last Saturday night, the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall was jam-packed with hundreds of classical music lovers.
The Albany Symphony Orchestra was celebrating maestro David Alan Miller’s 50th birthday with an out-of-this-world three-part gala concert at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, followed by a fund-raising reception with plenty of food and drink at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, just a stone’s throw down the street from the music hall.
The feeling in the air that night was that of a large, close-knit family reunion, sans the distractions of barbecues, badminton and children with popsicles running all around. All generations were represented, and the social affair had an abundance of undeniable style and elegance.
Up first was a superb, dynamic and delicately woven collaboration between the ASO and premier Portuguese guitar trio, the Pineiro Nagy Guitar Ensemble. Conducting with passionate verve, Miller brilliantly fused the orchestra and the un-amplified acoustic guitars of the ensemble during Enrique Grandos Y Campina’s “Intermezzo de L’opera Goyescas,” Isaac Manuel Francisco Albeniz Y Pascual’s “Suite Espanola, Op.47” and “Chants d’Espagne, Op. 232,” as well as Alberto Colla’s “Nocturnal Tears.”
Concluding the set, an elated and smiling Miller took his bows with the trio knowing full well that both he and the musicians under his baton had squeezed out every last drop of delicate beauty that was hidden in the notes of each score. To call the performance breathtakingly magnificent doesn’t begin to describe the greatness of Miller’s interpretation of the pieces.
The short intermission led into a fun-filled, 20-minute presentation of an original piece written by David Mallamud and performed by Miller’s contemporary, 18-member chamber ensemble, the Dogs of Desire. “Last Call at the Follies Bergere,” a homage to Bergere’s cabaret-style Paris revues, was a mini-mix of French troubadour music and something akin to Brecht & Weill’s operetta, “Mahagonny.” Mallamud’s work was effortlessly performed with the DOD ensemble easily embracing the fabulous vocal duo of Alexandra Sweeton and Kamala Sankaram, who added plenty of musical color, texture and humor to the event.
After the applause died down, ASO chairman of the board Steve Lobel and executive director Brian A. Ritter, offered two short speeches, one small birthday cake and a champagne toast to David Alan Miller. The audience joined the presenters and the DOD in a heart-felt “Happy Birthday” to the blushing birthday boy.
One more short work was performed by the Dogs of Desire, and after another intermission, the third part of the evening’s gala took off without a hitch. With Miller at the helm of the ASO, Beethoven’s “Symphony No.4” sailed admirably from start to finish, concluding the evening’s events at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in fine fashion.
The celebration continued with a post-concert reception in the main gallery of the Arts Center of the Capital Region. Surrounded by colorful balloons, dozens of well-wishers and tables filled with fabulous finger-food, an emotional David Alan Miller blew out the candles on a much larger cake. Later an unexpected impromptu performance by two members of the Pineiro Nagy Guitar Ensemble competed for attention with the chatter from the back of the room. By anyone’s standard, it was a memorable night.
The age-old question for any serious classical musician is, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The answer has always been, “Practice, practice, practice!” The new twist on the answer is, “Play with the Albany Symphony Orchestra under the baton of David Alan Miller!”
The ASO has been honored to be chosen as one of the most innovative and creative orchestras in the United States to debut their magic in Carnegie Hall on Tuesday, May 10.
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Joseph Dalton’s review at The Times Union
Excerpt from Geraldine Freedman’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Although the guitarists were obviously skilled, the pieces evoked a bit too much of the same kind of atmosphere. Perhaps that was deliberate, because after intermission the Dogs of Desire took over with David Mallamud’s marvelously stylish “Last Call at the Follies Bergere.” The 18-member ensemble, which includes versatile vocalists Alexandre Sweeton and Kamala Sankaram, usually plays only at the regular American music festival, so this gave the crowd a peek into the kind of razzmatazz sort of stuff it can do. The Mallamud was a sensational introduction. Although it’s original music, it sounded like the score came right from the orchestra pit at the Follies with all the flavor of that French music hall. The Dogs and Miller had a fun time and played with great style, verve and edge.”