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New York Pops: “By Special Request: An Evening with the Orchestra”

Orchestral rhapsodies as the colors of the inner orchestra unfold to seven time-honored composers with Steven Reineke and guest choir Essential Voices USA.

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Maestro Steven Reineke and the New York Pops (Photo credit: Johanna Weber)


Caleb Ryan

The New York Pops are the perfect antidote for those who suspect orchestral music to be dull or tedious. Proving again that celebrity performers are not needed to fill performance venues, Steven Reineke and his orchestra brought Carnegie Hall to life with their second installment in what is shaping into a rather exciting season. With adoring regard By Special Request: An Evening with the Orchestra truly had two stars, the orchestra itself and the music of seven time-honored composers.

The first half begun with Czech composer Antonin Dvořák and his work Carnival Overture, Op. 92 that set the pace and an atmosphere of excitement for a night of charming music. It was the perfect overture to introduce us to the skilled instrumentalists of the evening and the preface for what lay in store.

Then, almost 140 years after Georges Bizet composed the beloved opera Carmen, the work lived on enchanting the audience. An air of excitement buzzed the hall as familiar selections from the famous work were brought to life by the adeptness of an orchestra that is both versatile and musically sensitive to a wide range of orchestral possibility.

Beginning with the opening movement “O Fortuna” from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana Essential Voices USA, directed by Judith Clurman, joined the orchestra in a self-indulgent addition to the program that would have been wisely omitted. Lacking the fullness of sound to carry such an adored yet complicated piece of music they presented an under rehearsed struggle between orchestra, choir and conductor.

Despite this upset, as evening progressed, a fondness for the collaboration of choral and orchestral grew. Aaron Copland’s work “The Promise of Living,”from The Tender Land, an opera inspired by James Agee’s book ‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men’ and the depression-era photography of Walker Even’s proved the favorite of the evening with whispers of ‘beautiful’ echoing throughout the audience at the lowering of Reineke’s baton.

The entire second act, in fact, honored the many great composers that called New York home, revering the work of Aaron Copland (on his birthday), George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein. The concert played out with regular favorites including Hoe-Down from Rodeo, a particularly impressive orchestral feat, and Bernstein’s “Times Square”from On the Town, a symphonic delight.

We journeyed through Paris to the truly majestic and beautiful sounds of concertmaster Cenovia Cummins’ violin in George Gershwin’s An American in Paris.

Of note are young voices Arlo Hill and Lauren Frankovich who stepped away from the choir with a rich sound that filled the hall to Bernstein’s “Make Our Garden Grow,”from Candide to complete a splendid evening with the orchestra.

The premiere of a new work by Maestro Steven Reineke himself, Festival Te Deum is a treasure to join Reineke’s other respected works including Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Celebration Fanfare. In the spirit of a traditional Te Deum, the piece was triumphant and jocund and with a fresh and intriguing flair that took advantage of both the orchestral and choral.

Following this wonderful orchestral evening and with Christmas around the corner we have high expectations for the Pops’ next installment “Kelli and Matthew: Home for the Holidays” with guest stars Kelli O’Hara and Matthew Morrison, presented on both December 19 and 20.

The New York Pops: By Special Request: An Evening with the Orchestra (November 14, 2014)

Carnegie Hall, 881 7th Ave, at 57th Street, in Manhattan
For future performances: tickets can be purchased at the Carnegie Hall Box Office or by calling CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800.
More information: visit

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