Monday, October 20, 2014

Precision, young talent, pictures make electricity at Shubert for NHSO

After its splendid first concert of the season doing a spirited Beethoven's Fifth, two pops concerts with new conductor Chelsea Tipton and Thursday's "American Rhapsody" concert gem at the Shubert Theatre, the New Haven Symphony Orchestra is on a roll, aided last week by the brilliant talent of a 13-year-old girl.
Piano soloist Emily Bear (center above) and guest conductor Christopher Jahnke had a packed house, in the reopened Shubert Theatre in New Haven, spellbound with George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue and a few other treats, including Bumble Bear Boogie.
Bear was mostly spectacular, playing difficult pieces hand over hand without seeming to miss a note. Even the talented orchestra members were fighting the urge to just watch her work.
After an intermission that saw fans crowd around a table in the renovated lobby to meet Bear and buy her CD, maestro William Boughton acknowledged the difficult task of following that standing-ovation first half, but then rolled out a sublime second half with Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man (just horns and percussion on stage); Letter from Home and Appalachian Spring.
Not that symphonies need gimmicks, costumes, flamboyant soloists or audio-visual pyrotechnics in this era of social media, texting and 300-channel cable TV packages, but  WQXR DJ Elliott Forrest's projected images on a screen/wall behind the symphony added to the entertaining Copland portion.
Forrest produced a montage of photographs from the Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition, which he choreographed live to accompany the music. And during "Letter From Home," local photos of servicemen were included, signaling NHSO's overdue effort to engage and groom more classical music fans through social media.
Classical symphonies need to try anything and everything these days to make converts and keep their aging fan base at the same time. This one, aided by move away from spartan Woolsey Hall, worked on several levels.
NHSO should keep pulling out all the stops, and it should book the stellar young Bear any chance it gets. (The concert was repeated Sunday in Clinton.)

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