Listening to great music well played is always a pleasure. But when you can do it sitting at a nightclub-style table with good friends, noshing on petits fours and peanuts and sipping champagne, you’ve got it made. Fun and festive, Sarasota Orchestra’s recent “Great Escapes” program at Holley Hall was just the thing for a warm spring night.
Dirk Meyer was on the podium for this series devoted to music, “Beyond the Blue Horizon,” and his charming banter between pieces added just the right touch to the glow of enthusiasm that spread in musical waves from the players to the audience. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the look of utter joy on the face of red-headed principal cellist Abe Feder as he plays the overture to “H.M.S. Pinafore” and listens to the rattle of spoons from the percussion section in Berlin’s “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” which made the orchestra sound as bright and brassy as Ethel Merman.
Speaking of medleys, Dostal’s arrangement of music from Lehar’s “The Land of Smiles,” which included the gorgeous “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz,” brought a continent of smiles to everyone on stage and off.
Elgar’s “March of the Mogul Emperors,” from the composer’s campy “Crown of India Suite,” was as exotic as a graduation march for gypsies. And Honegger’s “Summer Pastoral,” an amiable pastiche of languid folk songs reminiscent of bergerettes and “Songs of the Auvergne,” was a perfect lead into Joseph Strauss’ swirling “Music of the Spheres” waltz and Gould’s wonderful arrangement of Arlen’s famous “Stormy Weather.”
Jonathan Spivey was at top form as a soloist in Addinsell’s warhorse, “Warsaw Concerto,” and the ensemble’s performance of Tiomkin’s suite from “The High and the Mighty” prompted us to run to Renaissance Video the next day to rent the John Wayne classic.
The evening deserved an encore, and “Stars and Stripes Forever,” with the rising of the winds to tootle us into the night made this the perfect great escape — fun, rousing, well-played and stimulating. This is Sarasota’s answer to London’s Proms and Boston’s Pops. If you can get a ticket, do it!
— June LeBell
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