March 28, 2009

Leonard Bernstein at HSO Connections

Wandered over to The Bushnell last night for the Hartford Symphony Orchestra "Connections" series with Colin McEnroe. I was able to get a single seat last minute (I am the procrastinator to whom Colin speaks), right up front (3rd row) and it was pretty amazing being that close to the orchestra. Although being that close, I could not see past the string section. So I kind of watched the violins, violas, cellos, and basses all night.

The spotlight composer was Leonard Bernstein - and there was a selection of his work over the years. West Side Story, of course, with a wonderful ensemble of Hartt School of Music theater majors. Pretty fabulous (especially to be so close to the stage). They also performed Bernstein's Serenade for Solo Violin, Strings, Harp and Percussion, which is reputedly a tough piece for a soloist (and in fact, an orchestra) to play - Leonid Sigal was pretty amazing on violin, shredding horsehairs as his fingers flew.

I really liked the format (Colin would come out and rap with conductor Edward Cummings about the music, Bernstein, etc.) The funniest bits were:

a) That West Side Story started out as a bit about the East Side of Manhattan, and the Jets and Sharks were to have been Irish Catholics and Jews. Colin noted "America would have been a klezmer song". He insisted this was true (though I was not convinced), but wikipedia confirms it. Heh.

b) He also sang a few chorus of "I want to be on Medicare...." (as opposed to America) which was funny (get a new knee on Medicare!) and also kind of ironic in the blue haired theater crowd.

And the orchestra introduced the 2nd half with the horns in the mezzanine, playing the mambo prelude from West Side Story. Awesome to be surrounded by music that way.

Lots of fun - I am a closeted classical music fan (I minored in music in college, not so impressive at an engineering school, but still) and musical theater geek (I never met a Sondhein score I did not love). Ran into a mini posse there - a foursone from the Real Art Ways / OPM crowd. Friends Kim and Kapil. And I wandered over to the Bushnell with friends Alison and John; Alsion lives nearby so it was nice to actually walk somewhere in Hartford on a mild spring evening.

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