Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

March 18, 2021

REVIEW: Albany Symphony, Rachmaninoff’s Third

Albany Symphony, Albany, NY

March 13 – April 13, 2021

by Michael J. Moran


Like the last program in their current season of livestreamed monthly concerts by smaller ensembles of their members during the Covid pandemic, the Albany Symphony’s latest program surrounded a world premiere commissioned for this occasion with two works by more familiar composers. While the concert will be available for 30 days on demand at the orchestra’s web site, the livestream broadcast also includes access to a pre-concert discussion and a post-concert Q&A session.


Led by the orchestra’s longtime Music Director David Alan Miller and recorded at Universal Preservation Hall in Saratoga Springs, NY, the concert opened with Respighi’s 1927 “Botticelli Triptych,” inspired by three Botticelli paintings at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. The 28-member ensemble were unexpectedly sumptuous in “Spring,” lush and reverent in “Adoration of the Magi” (which quotes the Advent carol “O Come, Emmanuel”), and exhilarating in “The Birth of Venus.” Each painting was helpfully projected before its movement.  


Carlos Bandera
Next came the world premiere of Carlos Bandera’s “Of Air and Rain,” in which “brief swells of
fragmented harmonies” against a “delicate, shimmering background” evoke the intense experience of “opening out with contentment” to nature in Wayne Dodd’s poem of the same name. The Albany musicians produced a luxuriant wash of haunting sounds that reflected Bandera’s very personal take on the influence of Arvo Part. With his music already performed to acclaim in multiple countries, this young American composer’s future looks very promising.  


The concert closed with a towering account by Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan of the rarely heard arrangement for chamber ensemble by Mordecai Rechtman of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #3. While Miller and Barnatan recounted in the Q&A some difficulties in balancing the instruments, Rechtman’s proportional reductions of orchestral sections and perhaps the wider than usual spacing of the players produced a transparent yet remarkably sensuous sonority.  

Barnatan was alternately fleet and expansive in all three movements, combining technical finesse with emotional depth, in a performance for the ages.


All the musicians except woodwind and brass players were masked, the acoustics were rich and full, and the videography was fluid and agile throughout. They finished the weekend with a Best Classical Instrumental Solo Grammy award for their recording of Christopher Theofanidis’ Concerto for Viola and Chamber Orchestra featuring violist Richard O’Neill – bravo!