“Technicolor Dreams” is the second in the Delaware Symphony Orchestra Classical Series.
Put Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” on a concert program and right away you know it’s big. Punch it up with a Rachmaninoff concerto packed with bold harmonies and lush melodies. Kick it all off with a contemporary composition that imitates the sounds of urban life filtered through a sleepy haze and you have all the makings for a concert titled “Technicolor Dreams,” the second in the Delaware Symphony Orchestra’s Classical Series.
This being the “Season of the Bells,” three of The Bells of Remembrance Project were stationed outside the entrance to the Laird Performing Arts Center at Tatnall welcoming concertgoers to Friday and Sunday’s sold-out performances.
The concert opened with Maestro Amado leading the nimble orchestra through a performance of Solbong Kim’s “Snooze Phantasm.”
Kim composed the work while studying at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Like most students, he hated getting up in the morning and postponed the event for as long as possible by hitting the snooze button on his alarm clock.
But living near 30th Street Station could be noisy—especially during the holiday season. That cacophony interrupted Kim’s dozing, so he infused his piece with train sounds, bells, and carols–even a bit of Stravinsky. The short work ends abruptly just as a sleep cycle or dream does when the alarm sounds.
Amado then welcomed guest soloist Stewart Goodyear, who aptly demonstrated why he has earned the reputation as one of the greatest pianists of his generation. This is the young Canadian’s third appearance with the DSO and he delivered a memorable and impassioned performance of Rachmaninoff’s monumental Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor.
This is not an easy work to engage with all its film and pop music associations, not to mention its storied performance history. Goodyear opened the Moderato with some full-blooded playing as piano and orchestra forged ahead, never dwelling on sentiment. His clarity and powerful yet beautiful touch were magical in the slower passages. So compelling was his performance that the audience erupted in applause at the close of the movement, something that rarely—if ever—happens in a formal concert setting.
Amado and Goodyear worked together so well in the Adagio sustenuto that the music never became bombastic, even as it built toward the mid-movement. The coda was lovely.
Goodyear displayed his formidable technique in the opening of the Allegro scherzando with both soloist and orchestra controlling the emotional content of a movement that could easily become saccharine. Towards the end, his delicate phrasing was evident yet he was not afraid to go for a big bold coda.
The audience clamored for more and Goodyear graciously obliged with a sprightly rendition of the “March of the Toy Soldiers” from his recently recorded transcription of the entire score of “The Nutcracker.”
As if that wasn’t enough, Amado, et al., ratcheted up the intensity with a dazzling performance of Ravel’s opulent orchestral arrangement of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.”
In his pre-concert remarks, Amado noted the elegant Frenchman’s 1922 transcription didn’t take away any of the intensity from the original but rather heightened it through the use of apt instrumentation. His reading showed just how remarkable and intricately orchestrated this suite really is.
Each movement brilliantly captured the varied moods of the solo piano work. The melody of “Il vecchio castello” was haunting in its solos for bassoon and alto saxophone. By contrast, the “Ballet of the Chicks in Their Shells” twittered with woodwind filigree. “Bydlo” lumbered along like an ox cart, while the tuba soloed a mournful tune over chugging strings. In general, Amado favored clarity and agility but had no problem asking the utmost of his musicians.
All that made for a spectacular “Great Gate of Kiev.” Whereas some come on too strong too early, Amada paced things perfectly, releasing the floodgates at just the right time. That, coupled with the chiming of one of the Bells of Remembrance, made for an unforgettable and hard-hitting finale as ever.