Reviews ...

Striking guitarist

... shines in MSO's Pops concert

by Jackie Wattenberg

Our Melrose Symphony Orchestra ended its season Saturday evening with a rare
appearance of a classical guitarist from--of all places--Russia!

The full house on Saturday evening in Memorial Hall was entralled with this singular
event, evidenced in the determined applause for Grisha Goryachev after each movement
of the Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquin Rodrigo.

Tall, handsome in a white shirt with billowing sleeves, the guitarist sat on stage
with calm assurance as he played a stunning concerto with ease and a compelling
richness of color. We're all familiar with the ever-popular guitar as young singers
thrash away on it with vigor and lots of volume.

Here was the guitar of classical variety and delicacy, presented with sensitivity to
its moods and tonal intent. Goryachev was a child prodigy in Russia, having studied
with his guitar master father. He came here to our New England Conservatory, where
he has received his bachelor, master and doctor of musical art degrees.

Of course, since this was a Pops concert, there were the familiar names on the
program--Leroy Anderson, John Williams, John Philip Sousa. And the orchestra was in
top-notch form to put them over. Williams' "Adventures on Earth" was offered with
the gently flowing, provocative air inspired by the movie, and Anderson's "Chicken
Reel," introduced by our conductor, was lively and fun.

And then there was the great music by Richard Rodgers for the trailblazing musical
"Oklahoma!," which turned Broadway from upper-class or European shenanigans to our
own American folk tales and small- or big-town shenanigans.

"People Will Say We're in Love," "Oklahoma!," Pore Jud is Daid"--"his fingernails
have never been so clean!"-- were instant hits that began a string of real-life
Broadway hits, culminating, in a way, to the serious strife of Leonard Bernstein's
"West Side Story."

Toward evening's end, it was good to hear a bit of the great Gershwin, an
arrangement of his peppy "Strike up the Band," an ingratiating sell of patriotism
and energy, and so performed by our orchestra.

Rodrigo's music is heard with some familiarity on our classical music stations,
always infused with lightness and charm. And so here, with an opening movement
labeled "Allegro con spirito," performed indeed with "spirit" and easeful runs and
rills, and endless articulation of the composer's demands.

The second movement shifted to "Adagio," plaintive and very touching in its minor
mode in this artist's sensitivity. The final movement returned to a livelier pace
for the climactic finale, and more stand-up applause.

Surprising but very welcome was the guitarist's return on stage after his applause
for an encore, a Flamenco-style piece that was applauded lustily again by the
enthusiastic audience. Small note of regret:  Sturdy coughers were at their best
Saturday night, especially those on the right side of the hall, always forceful and

For the closing section of the concert there was the "Liberty Bell" of John Philip
Sousa, and ending up with the Armed Forces Salute, during which Yoichi invited any
retired or present soldiers to stand--some did, and were applauded each time they

Somewhere in one of these last pieces Yoichi donned his "silly hat"--with pink flaps
that bounced up and down to the music, prompting an eruption of laughter.

So, now back to good music stations, or Tanglewood.

June 1, 2012

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