Monday, February 22, 2016

Lauderdale conquers “Rhapsody in Blue” with charisma but not with technique

Photo by Autumn deWilde
A standing-room-only crowd greeted the Vancouver Symphony on Saturday afternoon (February 20) at the Skyview Auditorium. You could practically feel the buzz in the air, because the featured artist was Thomas Lauderdale, the well-known leader of the hybrid lounge band Pink Martini. He took center stage to play George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” as part of an all-American program that included works of Aaron Copland. Fortunately for Lauderdale, he has a dynamic, charismatic personality that communicates very effectively with the audience, and that personal showmanship carried the day in his playing of Gershwin’s beloved classic, which was a good thing, because his pianism was often off course. By that I mean that Lauderdale missed notes, executed several sloppy runs, and rushed the tempo a few times. He did do well with passages that were slower, and played loud enough to be heard over the orchestra. But despite his errors, the packed house absolutely embraced his performance and rewarded him with a standing ovation. The enthusiastic applause brought him back to the stage a couple of times, and he responded with a lovely rendition of Gershwin’s “The man I love” in an arrangement for piano.

The orchestra, under music director Salvador Brotons, opened the concert with Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” in the popular orchestral arrangement by Robert Russell Bennett. The lush strings at the beginning strains of “Summertime” caused the entire hall to erupt with smiles and good times rolled onward with the jaunty “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin,’” “Oh I Can’t Sit Down,” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” A willowy segue by principal cellist Dieter Ratzlaf nicely landed the ensemble in a sultry rendition of “Bess You is My Woman” and the finale “O Lawd I’m On My Way” struck a wonderfully grand tone.

After intermission, Brotons led the ensemble in a sensitive interpretation of Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” Suite. Highlights of the performance included marvelous solos by concertmaster Eva Richey, principal flutist Rachel Rencher, principal oboist Karen Strand, and principal clarinetist Igor Shakhman. It should be noted that Shakhman also nailed the wonderfully wild opening statement in “Rhapsody in Blue” and, that piece, principal trombonist Greg Scholl created some of the best wa-wa sounds that I have heard anywhere.

For the final piece on the program, the orchestra took listeners south of the border with another Copland piece, “En Salon Mexico.” The folksy dance tunes received colorful performances that made this piece fun to hear. The sleepy trumpet of principal Bruce Dunn helped to evoke the tipsy dance band segment. Principal bassoonist Margaret McShea had a field day with her solos as did Shakhman. The percussion battery had a fine day as well, but they should’ve hit the bass drum more emphatically.

1 comment:

bob priest said...

Wouldn't it be wunderbar if T-Laud somehow got around to developing the chops required to play such esteemed repertoire without repeatedly dissing it via approximate renderings?