Classical News

October 28, 2016
The Morning Call

Review: Saxophonist Branford Marsalis shines with Allentown Symphony in Brazilian-themed season opener

Steve Siegel

Although the symphonic heavy-hitter in the opening concert of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra’s 2016-2017 classical season last weekend at Miller Symphony Hall was undoubtedly Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, “Eroica,” the bulk of the eclectic program really belonged to Brazil, by way of music of Heitor Villa-Lobos.

And of the three works by Villa-Lobos on the program, two of them clearly belonged to renowned jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis, who joined the orchestra, under the direction of Diane Wittry, in a stunning performance of Villa-Lobos’ Fantasia for Saxophone, Three Horns, and Strings, and the Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5.

Opening the program, which I attended Sunday afternoon, was Villa-Lobos’ Sinfonietta No. 1 in B Flat Major. Written as a memorial to Mozart, who, along with J.S. Bach, was one of the composer’s idols, this early piece allegedly is based on two Mozartian themes, neither of which was evident to me. However, I did enjoy the work’s orchestral color and the ASO’s rich, solid string playing throughout.

Marsalis was an absolute joy to hear in both of the Villa-Lobos pieces for soprano saxophone. 

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