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Arts and Entertainment Sunday, Mar. 1, 2015 4 years ago

Music Review: Dick Hyman with Venice Symphony

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The Venice Symphony premieres Hyman piano concerto.

Ask Dick Hyman about some of the musical influences in his life and he’ll toss out names like Ellington, Mancini, John Williams, Ravel, Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. That’s a hefty list of influential musicians and you can hear them in the music the pianist has, himself, written, arranged and improvised.

There was little question about influences Saturday night when Hyman appeared with the Venice Symphony, conducted by Kenneth Bowermeister, in the spanking new Venice Performing Arts Center for an all-American evening of music that included three of his own works, along with Bernstein’s “Candide” Overture and selections from “West Side Story” in the arrangement by Jack Mason originally written for the Boston Pops.

Hyman’s “The Piper Patriot of ’76” is a charming piece inspired by a 19th century painting and featuring tunes from the Revolutionary War in a brilliantly orchestrated romp with a trio of soloists — a pair of snare drum players and the orchestra’s virtuosic piccolo player, Beth Morrison.

“Shreveport Stomp,” based on a tune by Jellyroll Morton, brought the composer to the keyboard with the Orchestra for a charming ragtime piece that was, unfortunately, out of balance, making it difficult to hear the pianist when he was playing with the full orchestra.

Happily, the problem of balance was not evident in the premiere of Hyman’s Piano Concerto Number 2. Written in the traditional three movements, all marked “Moderato,” but each different, it’s a work filled with rich colors, an amalgam of styles from classical to jazz, and an orchestration that would have made Ravel — one of the greatest orchestrators of them all — very pleased. Gershwin hovered throughout the work but it was as if he’d had stepped into the 21st century with a whole new palette of harmonies and colors.

The second movement, for example, seems to begin with the opening notes of “I Loves You Porgy,” but then becomes a rich, rhythmic, romantic movement that is pure Hyman. Overall, it’s a Concerto that should wear well with time and repetition. And, with it, Hyman makes very good use of those musical influences.

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