Carmel Bach Festival 2018 — Heroic Symphony

What a great way to end the first week of Carmel Bach Festival 2018! We were observing a capacity audience and an exciting, varied program to send us on our way. In historical perspective, had this been forty years ago in 1978, when Dr. Sandor Salgo was Music Director, we would not have been hearing excerpts from Leonard Bernstein’s “On the Town, Copland’s “Appalachian Spring ” and Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony. The last music ringing in our ears as we departed Sunset Center would more likely been one of the triumphant Brandenburg Concertos capping a program that might also have included works by Handel and Telemann.

In his pre-concert lecture, David Gordon, speaking also to a capacity audience, gave us an important perspective about the three works we were about to hear in this final concert of the CBF’s first week. He told us that each of the three works marked the point in these composers’ careers where each of them found their unique voice and had triumphant successes.

And thus it came as no surprise that the three dance episodes from Leonard Bernstein’s “On the Town” were an immediate hit with the audience. Music Director Paul Goodwin and the Festival Orchestra were in fine form and delivered just the right jazzy style — big and brassy. I made a mental note that I need to stream the 1949 film adaptation, notably to see Gene Kelley dance, but also to observe how much of Bernstein’s original music from the original Broadway score had been replaced with material to show off Frank Sinatra to his best advantage.

Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring brought a nostalgic and joyful solemn ecstasy to the program. Here was Americana in one of its most charming forms. The association with Martha Graham and that inimitable patron of the arts, Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, provide an interesting story about the birth and gestation of this important work. We heard a stunning performance by the CBF musicians.

Ending the program was the great Beethoven Third Symphony, “Eroica.” In his pre-concert talk, David Gordon stated that with this symphony, Beethoven left the classical world of Mozart and Haydn and took a great step forward into the Romantic age. Amen, that he did, and on this occasion we heard a powerful and convincing performance.


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