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The New York Pops - By Request: An Evening with the Orchestra
By: Joel Benjamin
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The New York Pops with Music Director Steven Reineke
(Photo credit: Richard Termine)

The New York Pops and its Music Director Steven Reineke took advantage of the wealth of classical talent within its ranks and performed a program of traditional favorites. “By Special Request: An Evening with the Orchestra” highlighted not only the prowess of these fine musicians as an ensemble but also some of its members as soloists in several numbers.

Maestro Reineke’s “Celebration Fanfare,” a Copland-esque gem, opened the concert in a zestful rendition by the Pops, followed by Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Festival Overture” which went from ponderous to sprightly.

Then came “Variation 18,” from Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini,” the ultimate in romantic perfection, used in everything from films to coffee commercials. Margaret Kampmeier, the Pops’ pianist was the soloist. She played well technically, but didn’t hit the emotional heights, not helped by the orchestra which sounded a tad under-rehearsed in this work.

Much better was Ottorino Respighi’s “The Pines of the Appian Way” from “The Pines of Rome.” Mr. Reineke set the scene of the Roman army returning triumphant, mirrored in Respighi’s music: drumbeats getting louder; trumpets tooting; huge crescendos. Speaking of crescendos, Maurice Ravel’s “Boléro” ended the first half with a bang, following a lovely rendition of “Nimrod” from Elgar’s “Enigma Variations,” the work that put him on the musical map.

The second half featured two Tchaikovsky works. “Nocturne,” an orchestration by this composer of a selection from “Six Morceaux,” was performed by the Pops with First Cellist David Heiss as the soloist in this short, elegiac work. Although he tended to take slightly faster tempos than the orchestra, he is a musician with a rich technique and a large sound. Though Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” lacked the “requisite” live cannons and church bells, the Pops’ percussion section filled in nicely with robust drum blasts and exciting carillon playing.

Music director Steven Reineke conducting
(Photo credit: Richard Termine)

The other soloist of the evening was Concertmaster Cenovia Cummins in Vittorio Monti’s well-known “Csárdás,” based on the exuberant Hungarian folk dance. She also was exuberant and energetic, taking all the technical difficulties in her stride with panache.

Emmanuel Chabrier’s “España” is often used in music classes as a brilliant example of orchestration. Reineke brought out every bit of this work’s color. On the quieter end of the spectrum was Debussy’s “Clair de lune,” as arranged by the Pops’ founder Skitch Henderson. Perhaps a bit too heavy in its use of the basses, this Debussy calmed things down with its beauty. Not a cough in the house!

A quick romp of a Strauss polka ended this very satisfying program on a foot-stomping note.

The New York Pops celebrates the Holiday Season on December 14th & 15th at Carnegie Hall with “Pink Martini: Joy to the World.”

New York Pops: By Special Request: An Evening with the Orchestra (November 9th)
Isaac Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, 154 W. 57th Street, in Manhattan
Tickets for Upcoming Events: Carnegie Charge – 212-247-7800 or http://www.carnegiehall.org
More Information: http://www.newyorkpops.org

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