The Orange Coast College Symphony performance of “The Sound of Broadway” on Saturday was unfortunately lackluster.
Music Director and Conductor Maxim Kuzin, with help from music collector and Director of the Operetta Foundation Michael Miller, set out to bring life back to music from American musicals. The music hadn’t been played in decades and was only obtainable through Miller’s vast collection of sheet music.
What, in concept, seemed like an invigorating idea, in practice, lacked sheen and attention-grabbing qualities.
Let this be no slight to the musicians themselves who performed the music with grace and precision. Nor to Kuzin who conducted with animation and emotion. Nor to Miller who spoke in great depth and knowledge about the pieces being performed.
But, instead, to the verbal introductions by Miller to each and every single piece of music.
Miller meant well, surely. His vast curiosity and immense passion for the music he collects showed all night long as he sat on stage tapping his foot along to every beat and following every piccolo trill with his head as if he were playing it himself.
He desperately wanted to give context to the music being performed. However, it felt as if this was a two-hour long lecture with music breaks, rather than vice-versa.
Miller seemed to string historical anecdotes together like a candy necklace with one, after another, after another. This was done to the point where even the musicians, sitting alongside him and eager to perform the next medley, would raise their bows and mouthpieces up in anticipation for the next song — only for Miller to continue on with more background information.
Yes, the music was enjoyable. It was played nearly perfectly and was captivating, however, it left no lasting impression.
Perhaps, that’s why these pieces by Gershwin, Porter and Kern were left to gather dust in the first place.
The task Kuzin and the symphony took upon themselves, to dust off these old pages and give them a new life, was no easy one. Yet, they rose to the task and provided a lovely, albeit partially drawn out, evening for all those in attendance.
Maybe it’s due to the musicians making the difficult look easy, but there was a sense that the orchestra was coasting through the night, playing the music with a relaxed ease that neared on indifference. It will be nice to see them take on a challenge when they perform Beethoven in their next performance scheduled for May 9.