The concert opened with Bernstein's "Overture to Candide", which seems to be the selection of choice for opening light classics concerts. As usual it was joyously played. Really I don't mind if it's performed a lot, it's one of my favourites.
The first half ended with the always enjoyable "Rhapsody in Blue". Written by George Gershwin I believe originally for 2 pianos, it was actually orchestrated by Ferde Grofe. It's true that this piece has become widely recognized. As Mr. Outwater said "people know it from all sorts of places, like the tunnel between Terminal 1 at Chicago's O'Hare; Neon and Gershwin you might say." So true! Admittedly when I haven't been in a hurry in Chicago I've enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the tunnel. But it wasn't always the soothing, relaxing piece we consider it today. In its day it would have had things to make the previous generation gasp. The guest pianist was Todd Yaniw, who I would consider a prodigy having made his debut with the Edmonton Symphony at 13. Now 26, he's recently received a Master's degree from Rice University studying with another TSO regular Jon Kimura Parker. As always, it opened with the fantastic clarinet solo by YaoGuang Zhai.
Barber's "Adagio for Strings" has been paired by the TSO with "Rhapsody in Blue" before. It's always a stirring piece but it bothers me that people find the quietest pieces and moments within them to start coughing. Someone should do a study on the reasoning behind why one cough triggers 15 more from other people around the hall. I have to force myself to focus on the music, get sucked back into the beauty and try to ignore what's going on around me. No one clapped though in the spot where there's a pause when people sometimes think the piece is over.
The piece is in four movements Buckaroo Holiday, Corral Nocturne (a pun on chorale), Saturday Night Waltz, and Hoe Down. The first and finale are fast and light hearted and my favourites. I haven't seen the suite performed before, but would love to again. The audience clearly enjoyed it and applauded after each movement which was considerately acknowledged by the conductor rather than just ignoring it; the benefit of a casual concert I suppose. There was even a burst of applause in the middle of Hoe Down, although the indication from the podium at that point was a skeptical expression as if to say "we're not done yet". It was great to hear the audience enjoying it, and I'll guess the orchestra didn't mind too much, they had just yelled "yee haw" :)