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This journalist doesn’t speak or understand Spanish, but Prince Royce’s “Alter Ego Tour” stop at Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox on March 6 was nonetheless a thoroughly enjoyable, high-energy showcase for the singer-songwriter’s vocal talent, charisma and dance moves.
The Firesign Theatre comedy troupe once released an album aimed at upending expectations and assumed knowledge. It was titled “Everything You Know Is Wrong.” Such a phrase comes to mind with the arrival of “Piano & a Microphone 1983,” an intimate recording from Prince’s vast archive of unreleased material. A fitting subtitle could be “Everything You Know About Funk Is Wrong,” thanks to a couple of flat-out stunning solo performances on this session.
Country duo Sugarland was in town Friday in support of their sixth studio album, “Bigger,” bringing a close to the five-year hiatus the pair took after completing the “In Your Hands” tour in 2012.
Anticipation morphed into mania. Jason Aldean appeared on the stage after most fans had been waiting in the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena for nearly two hours on Saturday night.
On “Divide,” the British singer-songwriter shoots out a dozen, vastly different songs that showcase his tremendous musical ability, from misty ballads to hip-hop. Each one is calculated to find a happy fan somewhere.
“Can’t Touch Us Now” is an invitation into the Madness carnival of sounds, brimming with intriguing, colorful characters.
Adele’s fans have been waiting for years for new Adele songs to explain their experiences to them. And they get a worthy batch on “25,” an album so full of heavy-duty drama that it makes a more lighthearted peer such as Katy Perry seem like a Pez dispenser.
Kenny Rogers enters his 75th year with an album that blends the familiar with the challenging, seeking new hits and pursuing new ideas even as he enters the Country Music Hall of Fame this fall. His age occasionally shows in the raggedness at the edges of his vocal tone. But Rogers always made the huskiness of his voice work for him, and that holds true through most of these 11 new songs. Impressively, he hits high, forceful notes when required, matching longtime duet partner Dolly Parton on the soaring passages of the wistfully sentimental title tune, which would have fit on any of his solo albums from decades past.
As a grand finale to the 2012-13 season, the Spokane Symphony’s music director, Eckart Preu, conceived the idea of a three-concert festival featuring all of Ludwig van Beethoven’s piano concertos, along with briefer concertos by other composers, performed by a team of two pianists. It was an exciting idea and ticket sales were brisk, but it seemed doomed when one of the artists canceled. As evidenced by the sold-out houses Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, Spokane’s Beethoven Festival rose from its ashes thanks to the dedication of Preu and his board and the extraordinary talents of Conrad Tao, who performed all five masterpieces himself in just two concerts at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox.
The romantic movement that dominated European culture in the 19th century produced countless musical masterpieces that continue to draw audiences to concert halls. Three diverse examples of musical romanticism formed this weekend’s program for the Spokane Symphony at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox. Music director and conductor Eckart Preu once again demonstrated the ideal balance required to interpret romantic music.
How does music mean? If we ask, rather, “What does music mean,” the answer, of course, is “nothing,” for meaning is not intrinsic to a work of art, but an experience we have in response to it. If music does not link with what we already know, as when we look at a text written in an unintelligible language, there is no meaning. So how does a composer create music that communicates similar meanings to so many people? Some do this by creating patterns of contrast: fast with slow, loud with soft, major with minor, etc, and then stringing these contrasting sections together into movements, which are combined with other movements to form symphonies. As we experience these works, we find patterns that seem to lead to a “meaning.”
One of the great joys of orchestral music is that it can be enjoyed in many different ways. One can listen for beautiful melodies or delightful combinations of instrumental sounds, or enjoy perceiving relationships between one piece and another by the same or different composers. All these pleasures were on offer Saturday, when the Spokane Symphony performed music of Spanish origin and influence at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox. One could mention yet another pleasure: that of hearing a superbly programmed selection of music designed to convey to the audience not only enjoyment, but deeper understanding of the culture that produced such music.
We lovers of concert music in Spokane are much indebted to the generosity of individual benefactors and foundations. Thanks to gifts from the Johnston-Fix and Mary Jewett Gaiser foundations, weekend audiences at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox were treated for the second time to the playing of Vadim Gluzman, one of the most accomplished and admired violinists of his generation.
The splendid auditorium of the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox is a veritable riot of color: flamingo pink, pea green, azure, teal, rose, silver and gold, all simultaneously calling to the eye for attention. Yet, when the lights went down on Saturday night at the start of the concert by the Spokane Symphony, there was no loss of color. In fact, the spectrum that shone from the stage seemed even more brilliant and audacious than that which adorns the walls.
This spring in Spokane has been fertile for fanciers of fine cello playing. The Northwest Bach Festival concluded on March 18 with a performance of J.S. Bach’s cello suites 1-3 by Zuill Bailey that left everyone present slack-jawed in wonder at how much beauty could emanate from an old wooden box. Just last Monday, Israeli cellist Amit Peled joined the Gonzaga Symphony Orchestra in a performance that alerted everyone to the presence of a major artist in our midst. Finally, Eckart Preu and the Spokane Symphony Orchestra invited celebrated cellist Joshua Roman this past weekend to join them for the finale to their 2011-’12 season.
The third concert of this year’s Northwest Bach Festival featured piano virtuoso Lara Downes, who performed the 2004 work “13 Ways of Looking at the Goldberg: Bach Re-Imagined” on Saturday night. The title is taken from a 1917 poem by Wallace Stevens, “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” Thirteen American composers, representing a wide range of ages and musical styles, were commissioned to write a brief work based on the aria from Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” BWV 988 composed in 1741.
Saturday’s concert of the Spokane Symphony Orchestra at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox illustrated both the benefits and the risks of building a program out of acclaimed masterpieces. The benefit is that the audience need not overcome the fear of the unfamiliar and arrives eager to listen. The risk is that the performances they hear are compared with dozens of others.
The marketing slogan for this year’s Spokane Symphony season is simply “Say WOW.” Music Director Eckart Preu explains: “One of our goals this year is to surprise you at every concert, to lend unpredictability to a seemingly predictable environment.”
Friday evening’s performance by the Spokane Symphony really compelled the listener to, in the words of the orchestra’s marketing campaign, “Say WOW.” While “Casual Classics” may be the title of the more intimate concert series that opened at the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox, there was nothing casual about the profound artistry of the musicians under the direction of Music Director Eckart Preu and Resident Conductor Morihiko Nakahara.
The well-dressed crowd that poured into the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox for Saturday’s opening concert of the Spokane Symphony’s 2011-12 season was rewarded by an evening of music-making of exceptional quality. Music Director Eckart Preu chose a program of certified crowd-pleasers: George Enesco’s Rumanian Rhapsody No. 1 (1901), Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor (1865) and Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique (1830).