LIVE: Albany Symphony @ Palace Theater, 10/19/2019

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The Albany Symphony kicked off its 2019-2020 season on October 19 at the Palace Theater under the direction of David Alan Miller. The theme of this season is “Celebrating Phenomenal Women in Music.” Each concert in the series will feature works by women composers and/or outstanding woman performers.

The concert began with Bernstein’s “Symphonic Suite from ‘On the Waterfront’.” The suite was taken from the score Bernstein wrote for the 1954 movie “On the Waterfront,” and is filled with jazzy syncopations and heavily featured the woodwind (including a saxophone) and brass sections of the orchestra.

The audience reacted to the piece with enthusiastic applause, Bernstein, often a favorite, is a consistent crowd pleaser.

The next piece was ”Phenomenal Women” for woodwind quintet and orchestra by Valerie Coleman. This was only the third performance of this work written in 2018. The concerto style piece featured the Imani Winds with Brandon Patrick George on flute, Toyin Spellman-Diaz on oboe, Jeff Scott on French horn, Mark Dover on clarinet and Monica Ellis on bassoon. Each of the six movements was dedicated to a famous woman of color.

The first movement, dedicated to Maya Angelou, represented the beloved American poet with the entire quintet in a lyrical piece that paid homage to her impact on women worldwide. The second movement honored NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson. She was represented by the oboe and a mathematical sounding interplay between the oboe and the orchestra. The third movement was dedicated to Serena Williams, world tennis champion. She was represented with strong music from the bassoon and also featured a playful section by the orchestra that had the music bouncing back and forth in a volley between the two sides of the orchestra. There was a playfulness that helped listeners imagine Williams on the court volleying the ball.

The fourth movement was a homage to the Caravana, the women who risk their lives to bring their families from the dangers of the homelands in search of safety and freedom in America. They are represented by the flute’s intricate melodic passages. The French horn was used to represent the strength and grace of Michelle Obama. The final movement was about Claressa Shields, Olympic Boxing gold medalist and activist in her hometown of Flint, Michigan. The clarinet represented her.

“Phenomenal Women” received a standing ovation from the enthusiastic audience who responded to the thoughtful piece with high praise.

The second half of the concert was “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky, orchestrated by Maurice Ravel. The orchestra gave an excellent performance of this classical music favorite and was rewarded with another standing ovation.

The Albany Symphony’s next performance will be on November 9 at 7:30 at the Palace Theater. It will feature a concerto for violin, horn and orchestra. Tickets are on sale now at the Palace box office, or at the official website of the Albany Symphony.

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