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University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra conductor John Nardolillo was in Boston last weekend to conduct two performances of the Boston Pops Orchestra. He was filling in for Maestro Keith Lockhart, who was with the Pops Esplanade Orchestra at some run out dates in New England.
The Pops’ holiday shows are a Boston tradition playing dozens of dates for thousands of patrons. In addition to making beautiful music, Nardolillo’s duties included leading the audience in a sing-along portion of the show and welcoming Santa Claus to the stage. His engagement was the latest chapter in a growing relationship between UK and the Pops. Here are few photos from the weekend, courtesy of the Boston Pops.
University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra director John Nardolillo will conduct two of the Boston Pops Orchestra’s holiday concerts in Boston’s Symphony Hall next month.
Nardolillo will step in for the Pops’ superstar conductor Keith Lockhart, who will be conducting tour concerts in New England by the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra Dec. 15 and 16. The concerts are part of the Boston Pops’ regular holiday shows, which are a Boston tradition said Dennis Alves, director of artistic planning for the orchestra.
He said the engagement is part of the Pops’ enduring relationship with Nardolillo, which started when he was music director for folk music legend Arlo Guthrie, who has performed with the Pops. That relationship reached a high point when Lockhart and the Pops came to Lexington in October 2011 to present a concert in conjunction with the UK Symphony Orchestra to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Keeneland. During that performance, Nardolillo conducted the Pops in one number and Lockhart conducted the UK orchestra for a piece. Both conducted the combined orchestras for the evening’s grand finale.
“We’ve liked John so much over the years,” Alves said. “We really saw him work when the Pops were down in Lexington and thought he deserved a shot.”
Nardolillo is the only guest conductor scheduled to conduct the holiday shows.
Alves said in addition to conducting holiday favorites, Nardolillo will be chatting with the crowd and talking to Santa Claus, “the real Santa Claus,” he added.
“Lexington is really lucky to have John with all he has brought to the orchestra and the outreach programs in Appalachia,” Alves said. “And we’re lucky you’re loaning him to Boston.”
Prior to that, Nardolillo will be conducting the UK Symphony Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 29) in a free performance of Claude Debussy’s La Mer and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in the Singletary Center for the Arts Concert Hall. The UK Symphony opened its current season with a performance by violin legend Itzhak Perlman in September and will end with a tour of China in May.
Nov12Filed under: Classical Music, Music, Norton Center for the Arts, Rupp Arena, Uncategorized; Tagged as: 'Classical' Symphony, BBC Concert Orchestra, Boston Pops, Igor Stravinsky, Ilya Yakushev, Jim Carey, Keith Lockhart, Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev, Norton Center for the Arts, Rite of Spring Suite, Sergei Prokofiev, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Utah Symphony Orchestra
DANVILLE – Going to see Keith Lockhart conduct a traditional classical music concert is like going to see Jim Carey in a drama*.
In the world of orchestral music, Lockhart has made his name at the top of the pops – the Boston Pops, to be precise. In that field, his credentials are unassailable. But (let’s all do a little professorial chin stroking here and speak through our noses) can he conduct “serious” music? In that question is the misguided presumption that pops is all little three-chord ditties, akin to the perception that any class clown can be a brilliant comic actor.
Classical music has a better track record of letting rock stars write symphonies and concertos than letting established pops conductors pick up the baton to lead a symphony or concerto.
But Lockhart has been defying that prejudice for more than a decade, spending 11 years conducting the Utah Symphony Orchestra. He left that gig last year, and Thursday night he came to Danville’s Norton Center for the Arts with his new band, the BBC Concert Orchestra, and showed that he has some serious “serious music” chops.
This was a red-meat classical concert of Russian music giving us Sergei Prokofiev’s ‘Classical’ Symphony and Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird Suite in the first half and Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with soloist Ilya Yakushev after intermission.
Like any good actor, Lockhart made us forget his was a “pops guy” soon after the the downbeat.
After the incidental opener of Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev’s Overture on Russian Themes. Lockhart and the BBC dove into Prokofiev’s familiar short symphony, showing an immediate mastery and creativity with dynamics that gave the simple-sounding work brilliant color. And the concert built, next with the Firebird, ushered in with a subtle a bass introduction as you could hear and still hear it.
Movie music is a mainstay of the Pops repertoire, and Lockhart’s interpretation was cinematic, giving Stravinsky’s work a bold pop.
The Maestro built this program with a showman’s sensibility, saving the best for last with Yakushev’s passionate embrace of the Rach Second. Usually, it is preferable to be seated where you can watch a piano soloist’s hands. But it was a pleasure to be facing Yakushev and witnessing how absorbed he was, not only in the piano challenge the composer presented him, but also in the work the orchestra was doing behind him.
And this orchestra worked.
Though the Concert Orchestra is the smallest of the BBC’s ensembles, we are talking London here, where many fantastic musicians reside hoping to find employment in the plethora of ensembles based there. Lockhart sculpted the performance, but this was also an easily malleable group. Given the program, the winds and brass had many chances to shine and took advantage of them, particularly flutist Ilena Ruhemann, who was the star of the Classical Symphony.
While many of his predecessors were not allowed to move between the classical and pops world, with orchestras from the New York Philharmonic to our own Lexington Phil moving more readily between genres, the time is right for a superstar conductor like Lockhart who is comfortable in front of any orchestra.
Lockhart will be bringing his star back to the Bluegrass in October with his signature group, the Boston Pops. But when we see them in Rupp Arena Oct. 15, those of us who were in the Norton Center Thursday night will know what a complete musician he is.
* Jim Carey was brilliant in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich