Concert Notes

Branford Marsalis with the VSO

NEA Jazz Master, renowned GRAMMY Award-winning saxophonist Branford Marsalis is one of the most revered instrumentalists of his time. Branford performs the first half with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and conductor Gordon Gerrard, and in the second half is joined by his long-time quartet pianist Joey Calderazzo.

In the first half, you'll hear pieces by four of the of the great “classical crossover” artists. Two are most often viewed as classical composers, but who broadened their musical pallet with jazz and pop influences. One is a master of popular songwriting, who also wanted to be accepted as a more “serious” composer of concert works. Another is a musical chameleon whose compositions have shaped popular culture for nearly fifty years!

LEONARD BERNSTEIN found fame in the concert hall with three Symphonies, on Broadway with shows such a West Side Story, and in opera houses with Candide. It is really a comic operetta, but opened on Broadway in 1956, to mixed reviews, finding success in the 1970s and ‘80s as a star vehicle and a staple in opera houses and concert halls. The sparkling OVERTURE TO CANDIDE includes the romantic duet “Oh, happy we” as well as “Glitter and be Gay,” an over-the-top send-up of a coloratura aria.

DARIUS MILHAUD was one of the members of Les Six, a “brat pack” of young, avant-garde French composers in the 1920s. He was well-travelled, and spent a good deal of time in Brazil and in the US absorbing popular dance and jazz influences. His suite for saxophone and orchestra, SCARAMOUCHE, includes a stylized Brazilian samba. Milhaud had many students in the US, including a young Dave Brubeck and songwriter Burt Bacharach.

GEORGE GERSHWIN created a huge body of work that is a dominant part of the Great American Songbook. But he also wanted to be recognized as a “serious” artist and asked several prominent composers for lessons. Maurice Ravel responded with, "Why become a second-rate Ravel when you're already a first-rate Gershwin?" Gershwin’s tone poem, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, captures the impressions of an American visitor in Paris as he strolls about the city and listens to various street noises and absorbs the French atmosphere."

JOHN WILLIAMS is well-known for his film scores, but during the 50s and 60s he was busy studio musician and jazz pianist working under the name Johnny Williams. He evoked that swinging sixties era in the jazzy score that he wrote for “Catch Me If You Can,” (2002) which starred Leonardo DiCaprio as a clever conman, and Tom Hanks as the FBI agent pursuing him. These escapades became the source for his Sax Concerto titled ESCAPADES using three of the music cues from the film: Closing In, Reflections, and Joy Ride.

After intermission, the spotlight will be on the Jazz side of Branford Marsalis's musical personality.

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