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For the week of August 18th, 1999 through August 24th, 1999

Electric Gershwin performance

Standing ovation for young pianist

Discussing the complexities of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with a writer before last Friday’s Sun Valley Summer Symphony American composers concert, pianist Jeremie Michael disclosed that although he had played the Gershwin classic many times, never had he done so with an orchestra.

In a sense, it didn’t matter. Michael, a 19-year-old musical prodigy who is studying at the Juilliard School, electrified a packed house under the tent and received a prolonged, and deserved, standing ovation. He received a bouquet of flowers for his elegant effort, lower right.

Michael, currently music director of the long-running off-Broadway smash, The Fantastiks, said it’s actually more work playing "Rhapsody" solo because the pianist must master more of the orchestration on the keyboard.

Michael brought a rhythmic bounce to the 1924 piece that would have made Gershwin proud.

Complementing Michael’s verve was clarinetist David Neuman of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, whose opening gliss on "Rhapsody’s" signature note seemed to have a particularly jazzy lilt, setting the table for Michael’s performance.

The program also included pieces by Bernstein, Barber and Sousa. Its quality was all the more remarkable because the symphony’s approximately 85 musicians, mostly Americans but with a few Canadians mixed in, rehearse only once on the afternoon of the evening performance.

"It amazes me how quickly we adapt to one another," said Alasdair Neale, the symphony’s music director, shown below conducting Friday night.

"People have to make adjustments," the 37-year-old associate conductor of the San Francisco Symphony said during a rehearsal break Friday afternoon. "It’s a challenge."

Last Friday night, that challenge was certainly met. The result: a resounding success.


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