Reviewed by Lee Shepherd
Last night (March 17) wasn’t just any night. As Binghamton met Bernstein, the world went away.
The Binghamton Philharmonic Orchestra, with Principal Guest Conductor Daniel Hege on the podium and at the lectern, gave an all-Bernstein concert to a packed house at The Forum, 236 Washington St., Binghamton.
Stunning, heart-wrenching and exhilarating renditions of music from On the Town, the overture and a suite of music from Candide and “Symphonic Dances” from West Side Story celebrated the upcoming 100th birthday of legendary American conductor, composer and educator Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990).
The concert also celebrated the memory of another music innovator, David Agard, co-founder and artistic director of the BC Pops., who died in 2017. Look for a reprise this summer of Agard’s popular Pops on The River concert, which drew 30,000 to downtown Binghamton, BPO Executive Director Brittany Hall said.
Hall also announced the start of a BPO “app,” which will offer a digital program and tidbits about upcoming concerts.
Hege, a candidate for permanent BPO conductor, is also an educator. He eloquently described music legend Bernstein as a “polymath,” an extraordinary person who excelled in many areas. Bernstein’s popularity encompassed the Broadway stage, concert hall, film and ballet, not to mention television. With a show of hands, dozens in the audience acknowledged they’d been introduced to classical music via Bernstein’s television broadcasts, Omnibus and the Young People’s Concerts.
It was a relatively short program, over by 9 p.m., but the orchestra played torrents of notes, interpreted a zillion tricky time signatures and executed more syncopated rhythms than most concerts of that length.
It’s hard to single out sections of the orchestra for commendation, but the brass, woodwind and percussion sections deserve special mention for jazzy, finger-snapping performances. There were brilliant solos by cellist Hakan Tayga-Hromek, violinist Uli Speth, saxophonist April Lucas and many others not named in the program. A pet peeve: The program lists musicians for the season, not for individual concerts, so credit sometimes can’t be given where it’s due.
Like Bernstein, the BPO proved it has one foot in the world of classical music and the other in the world of jazz and theater. The entire orchestra poured passion into the extraordinarily difficult music. The result was an evening of sheer joy that made the troubles of the world disappear.