The London Philharmonic Orchestra tucked heartily and willingly into a chuck wagon of rich and stirring music as they perfectly cooked up the boldness and optimism that epitomised the rise and the spirit of the USA.
Alsop was a fine wagon mistress plotting the musicians in the right direction across widely differing musical landscapes and some perilous musical pathways.
Fellow Yankee Garrick Ohlsson on piano proved to be a whole lot more than a nimble and resourceful side-sick in a concert that was tremendously entertaining from the first trumpet call of a perfect Fanfare for the Common Man (Copland) to the last chords of a freshly delivered old favourite in the New World Symphony (Dvorak).
The combination of conductor, pianist and an orchestra on top form was probably best seen on a dazzlingly performed and engrossing Rhapsody in Blue.
The players were surely inspired by the Ohlsson combination of artful jazz musings, attacking jagged chords and crystal delicacy.
Alsop’s passionate but gently exerted control, immaculate throughout, brought out vividly the many colours of the orchestra, from the lusher Cinemascope landscape of some passages in the fascinating Copland Piano Concerto to the sophisticated syncopated rhythms of the Gershwin.
Ohlsson kept a keen dynamic balance against some powerful trumpet, trombone, and horn playing, often matching their agression but always under complete control of the keyboard.
Fine playing by strings and woodwind opened up the wide-screen landscape and abundant melodies of Dvorak’s New World Symphony. Their invigorating molto vivace third movement showed there is more to this piece than the beloved Hovis ad theme. All the same, Gill Callow deserved to take a bow for her exquisite solo in that famous largo movement.
Equally the clarinet of Robert Hill deserved the waves of applause after the Rhapsody in Blue, not just for the opening trill and glissando but for his playing throughout.
Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman was as restlessly busy as 21st century mothers seem to be and in my view was more musically interesting than the “Common Man” of Copland fame though certainly not nearly as catchy.
Maybe this was all in a night’s work for a top rate professional orchestra, but from where I sat they produced a special evening to put in the memory bank.
Review by Phil Dennett