The hall at 51 Walden in Concord was crowded with tables on Sunday afternoon, May 16, for the last of the Concord Orchestra Pops concerts. This was not easy-listening pablum, but real music on a diverse menu, showing the Concord Orchestra in great shape after a busy season. Pittman’s conducting brings out exuberant, crisp, full range of dynamics and phrasing from his orchestra.
There was a great ‘pop’ right from the start in a classic opener, Russlan and Ludmilla Overture of Glinka, setting the virtuosic tone for the concert. There was also admirable solo work in the Overture, Scherzo and Wedding March from Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, in Johann Strauss Jr’s Donner und Blitz Polka and Frühlingsstimmen, and Siri Smedvig’s introduction to Jacob Gade’s Jalousie, the world’s best Danish tango.
We also heard the world premiere of a classy new brass and percussion piece, Fanfare for Dick, by Bernard Hoffer, written in honor of Richard Pittman’s 40th anniversary with the Concord Symphony Orchestra, parent of the Concord Pops.
Arthur Foote was a prominent and much-admired member of “The Boston Six” at the turn of the last century. (His piece, In the Mountains, was performed by the Boston Symphony under Wilhelm Gericke at the Paris Exposition in 1889.) Foote’s 1918 A Night Piece, a great example of American music of the period, with complex counterpoint, ‘exotic’ harmonies, and a distinctive voice, was given a clear and lyrical performance by principal flutist Susan Jackson and the orchestra strings. The light touches of the cymbals were effectively discreet.
Soprano Karyl Ryczek sang Zerlna’s “Batti, batti” from Mozart’s Don Giovanni beautifully and with perfect diction, as well as leading the Arlen, Rodgers and Duke sing-along; the arrangements were quite lush and elegantly underplayed. The audience singers faded quickly from her rendition of April in Paris, however, and let her beautiful tone carry the day.
The concert closed with “Stars and Stripes Forever,” complete with perfectly unfurling red, white and blue.