Time for Three
The Louisville Orchestra
Teddy Abrams, conductor
Featuring Time for Three
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents copyright © 2015 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved
As Teddy Abrams took the podium for his final performance of his first full year as Music Director of the resurrected Louisville Orchestra, I couldn’t help but appreciate the piece for which he was conducting: John Williams’ The Cowboys (Overture). With recognizable percussion and xylophone that lead into sweeping lines from the woodwinds and strings, one cannot help but to imagine the prairie, but then enter a fantastic brass fanfare and one imagines a group of cowboys looking over a vista with no end; much like we, as a community, view our orchestra now….limitless.
Soon after we are greeted by the group Time for Three. A handsome trio made up of violinists Zachary DePue and Nick Kendall with Ranaan Meyer, double bassist. With a very deep pedigree of musical skill and experience, they did not refrain from showing off their affinity for improvisation and took the audience to auditory heights.
The set started with Ranaan Meyer’s Banjo Love. As the trio, accompanied by the orchestra, got deeper into this particular piece I sat and tried to figure out the Banjo connection. I, personally, didn’t hear anything that truly stood out as sounding like a banjo; then Mr. Kendall shared with the audience how the piece came about. One day as Mr. Meyer’s bass was lying on its side; he looked at it and imagined how it would be as the world’s largest banjo. He then infused playing styles made famous by one of the leading banjo players of our time, Béla Fleck, while simultaneously thinking what a banjo might sound like in an orchestral setting. This is how this group’s musical mind works and we are richer for it (we will get an opportunity to revisit the banjo/orchestra collaboration when Béla Fleck comes to perform with the LO in April 2016).
We then heard a mash-up of the very recognizable Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, paired up with Justin Timberlake’s Cry Me a River. When I read that, having been familiar with both pieces, I could easily see how the two could be put together. And it sure was. Within this piece I wasn’t sure whether the strings were going to be strong enough to withstand the extreme stress. Very inspirational. The audience thought so to.
When Time for Three began Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah I wasn’t sure what to expect. The original song can spark deep emotions with just a piano. But when you combine an elegant violin melody, along with a haunting harmony, the experience becomes almost ethereal.
Now of course if you have a background in using a fiddle and you are in the state where Bluegrass music was invented, it would behoove you to infuse a little of that into the program, don’t you think? Well, as luck would have it, Ervin T. Rouse’s Orange Blossom Special came barreling down the stage. This piece felt as if it was the culmination of a long, fruitful jam session with Bluegrass at its core and some Jazz thrown in for a little extra oomph, made all the sweeter by Teddy Abrams himself on the keyboard.
Perhaps the most entertaining segment of the evening came as Time for Three played Vittorio Monti’s Czardas. This piece oozes romantic Italian and Russian themes from every stanza, and this wasn’t lost on our playful orchestra. Before long Viola Principal Jack Griffin rose from his chair, along with his fellow artists and performed in the often seen grandiose fashion of a strolling violinist. Not to be outdone, the violinists actually strolled. The remainder of the seated orchestra, trio and audience, ate it up.
The trio ended on a quieter note with Mumford and Sons’ Little Lion Man. And they were smart when singing a particular line to keep it clean. For those of you familiar with the song, you know what I am talking about.
This terrific trio deserved every second of the standing ovations that they received. I kept hoping that we would be treated to at least one more song, but alas that didn’t happen. Although it seemed that their repertoire was more suited for a POPS concert, it only enhanced this entry in the Classics Series.
With a little movement of instrumentalists the orchestra settled in for Beethoven’s masterpiece Symphony No. 5 in C minor. From the first recognizable “Da Da Da Dum” to the last chord of the Allegro, the complexities of tone and rhythm in this piece are magnificent. Too often I’ve noticed where the orchestra can get a little excited and begin to play above tempo, but Maestro Abrams held the tempo at bay. I did notice within the first movement that Abrams was very insistent with the strings to bring their piano to a pianissimo and even down to a ppp, softer than pianissimo. Such is the subtleness of this Symphony.
As is often the case and often debated, there was applause between the movements. Although it is not a written law that one should not do that during an orchestral performance, I sensed it was a bit of a distraction at times.
Within the third movement, a neat little device of mimickery was taking place within the strings as well as a melody that I dare say the aforementioned John Williams may have borrowed for his work with the motion picture E. T. the Extra Terrestrial.
The final movement of the Fifth, the Allegro, has enough pomp and circumstance to sound as if written for, royalty, and the orchestra provided an appropriately regal reading. I happily rose to my feet to give our orchestra a rousing standing ovation, and after four calls to the stage to receive cheers of bravo and thunderous applause, the 2014-2015 Louisville Orchestra season came to a triumphant close.
April 25, 2015
Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
[box_light]Annette Skaggs is a heavily involved Arts Advocate here in Louisville and freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York Opera and Northwestern University. She has a 25+ year knowledge of the Classical Arts.[/box_light]