While at my "Edmonton home" preparing Pro Coro's most recent concert, I went to hear the ESO's concert with Music Director Bill Eddins. Bill's has a great blog, which you'll find here. Bill writes well, has a great sense of humor, and lends an interesting bent on the orchestral world.
The concert combined three masters: Bernstein's (Symphonic Dances fromWest Side Story), Gershwin (Robert Russell Bennett's great arrangement/symphonic portrait of Porgy and Bess), and the Ellington/Strayhorn take on Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite (in Jeff Tyzik's arrangement), along with a new commission by Edmonton-based (but currently in Edinburgh, Scotland) composer, Allan Gilliland: Dreaming of the Masters II--Rhapsody GEB (Gershwin, Ellington, Bernstein). Bill was piano soloist for the Gilliland.
This was both, I think, a great program concept and brilliant performance. Bill has said on his blog that the ESO plays this kind of stuff very well, and that was abundantly true. I work regularly with the principals of the orchestra, whenever we do choral/orchestral works, and always love working with them--they're great people and talented musicians who always want to do the best job they can. There's no "getting through a gig" with them. However, I haven't really heard them do this style, so it was fun to hear and watch them a work with this program.
Bill's an excellent pianist who regularly plays/conducts concertos and he did beautifully here, performing/conducting Allan's piece from memory (as he did with the Bernstein Symphonic Dances).
I've worked with Allan before, since we commissioned him for a Christmas work with Pro Coro several years ago. It was a good piece, but not one that I think will enter the repertoire. Allan's background is as a trumpeter, principally doing jazz and he knows this style inside and out, as well as being an excellent orchestrator. The piece simply works, and will get performances all over the place, I'm sure. His first Dreaming of the Masters piece, for clarinetist James Campbell was also a great success, having been done by the Boston Pops already. For Allan, I think he's found a perfect "niche" in which to work--this doesn't mean he can't do other styles, he certainly can, but this should get his name and works performed on a regular basis. A talented guy!
An enjoyable evening in every way.