Westchester Philharmonic

Winter Pops:  BWAY ’59

December 22, 2013

Newly appointed co-music director, Ted Sperling, led the orchestra and three fine Broadway singers:  Judy Kuhn who is currently starring at the Public Theatre in lower Manhattan, Betsy Wolfe who has been cast in Woody Allen’s musical Bullets Over Broadway, opening on Broadway this coming season, and Ryan Silverman who currently stars in the Broadway company of Chicago.

Ted Sperling is a fine conductor.  The communication between him and the orchestra is spot on and it is clear why that is so.  His gestures are dynamic, economical and tight.  Some of his moves I have not seen before.  After the concert  I asked how he developed such a clean style of conducting.  Was it because he is accustomed to the Broadway orchestra pit which is so much smaller than a full concert stage?  He thought for a moment and said that might be the case. 

I, personally, have always enjoyed watching the flamboyant conductors who wave their arms and jump up and down.  But Maestro Sperling showed none of that showmanship while cleanly leading his musicians down a smooth, classy musical path which gave up nothing to more showy conductors.  Kudos to Mr. Sperling.

The downside to this concert was that Mr. Sperling seems to have built the program more from his personal taste and less from a desire to entertain his audience.

In 1959, Gypsy, The Music Man, West Side Story, Flower Drum Song were all on Broadway.  So many songs from these musicals were popular hits and well-known – recognizable to this day.  But Mr. Sperling chose much less popular numbers, and songs from Redhead and Jamaica which were far more obscure.  Most of these songs were not so recognizable and there is a reason for that.

Good songs last.  Some good songs do not get their due, but these were not among them. 

Good performances from all:  the singers, Mr. Sperling and this fine orchestra.  But it takes more than solid performances to entertain.  I would rather hear a club singer doing popular songs than Broadway singers doing also-ran songs.

Fortunately The Westchester Philharmonic specializes in classical music.  One can only hope that when Mr. Sperling is called upon to build concerts from the classical repertoire, he will be more cognizant of what constitutes entertainment. 

Mozart wrote 41 symphonies.  We hear four of them with any regularity.  Only the Jupiter and the sublime 40th get much play. 

Again there is a reason for that.  Mozart, surely one of the best composers who ever lived, wrote 37 symphonies that are almost never played.