American composers celebrated at orchestra concert
ORONE – On Sunday, the Bangor Symphony Orchestra’s fifth Masterworks concert for the 2018-19 season was a celebration of American composers.
The first half of the program consisted of three works featuring popular tunes. “Can’t You Line ‘Em” by William Grant Still is a brief orchestral treatment of a song sung by railway workers.
Yet who has been called the “Dean of African-American Composers,” has received numerous honors during a distinguished career, including three Guggenheim Fellowships.
“Can’t You Line ‘Em” reflects his first experience of arranging popular music. After the introductory call for a solo horn, the orchestra’s response was fiery and jazzy.
The world premiere of “Serenity on the Lake” by BSO Music Director Lucas Richman followed. Commissioned by Lee Souweine, resident of Dedham, in memory of his late wife, Ruth, the play is a series of variations that reflect his spirit.
In a charming waltz, fragments of the children’s folk dance “White Coral Bells” and a section evoking sunlight glistening on the water, Maestro Richman’s mastery of orchestration was fully demonstrated.
Joan Tower’s “Made in America” was commissioned in 2004 by a consortium of over 60 US orchestras and has been performed frequently, winning three Grammy Awards in 2008.
At Sunday’s concert, Richman led the BSO through the work’s slow opening in a series of musical episodes. A unifying theme, “America the Beautiful,” appeared throughout the play, whose bustling, bustling street scenes and sweet moments alternated with dissonant and menacing ideas.
The orchestra gave a solid interpretation of the changing moods, confidently delivering demanding polyrhythmic sections, frequent solo interjections, and abundant percussion.
The second half of the concert was a continuation of Leonard Bernstein’s centennial celebration throughout the season, with a performance of selections from his operetta (or is it musical theater?) “Candide”. The soloist cast was excellent, with baritone Christopher Sanders and tenor Boris Van Druff mastering several roles. Singer / actress Kelly Lester was a point like the old lady. The main cursed couple, Cunégonde and Candide, were performed by soprano Amy Maples and tenor Aaron Blake. Maples took the house down with his demanding tune performance “Glitter and Be Gay”. Blake’s performance in the title role was both awkward and likable, especially in the tender “Candide’s Lament”.
Given the need for soloists to project frequent spoken lines onto a large orchestra, the choice to amplify soloists was understandable. However, it did not work consistently. An already confusing plotline was hard to follow, and the improvement of the cast’s great opera voices occasionally resulted in sheer submersion.
Sunday’s performance was also the symphony’s annual collaboration with the University Singers and the University of Maine’s Oratorio Society, and the combined choirs shone in frequent action commentary, well-rounded a cappella sections and a catchy finale.