UTAH SYMPHONY, Women in Song (Sophisticated Ladies), with Irene and Christie Perry, piano; Newton Wayland conducting. Symphony Hall, July 8 at 8 p.m.
Newton Wayland and his eclectic, wide-ranging touch of pops have become something of a summer fixture in Salt Lake City, and deservedly so. When this genial master of the baton breezes into town, the air seems a little fresher and the step a little springier.Performing his own and others' arrangements, Wayland took for his amusing theme "Women in Song," or more to his taste, "Sophisticated Ladies." And true enough, most of the femmes celebrated in his songs had a certain alluring aura.
Surely no make-believe ladies could have more appeal than pianists Irene and Christie Perry, whose mother and daughter act is a hard one to follow - better than a sister act by far.
Gracious, smiling and assured, they made light work of the Poulenc Concerto in D minor for Two Pianos and Orchestra. Though Irene's authority and projection was naturally the greater, their balance was generally excellent, their touch crisp and melodic, and their coordination nearly flawless as they took a suitably Gallic approach to this delightful work.
With his usual good taste, Poulenc balanced nicely between orchestral accents and considerable passages where the piano shows off, in a work that with each hearing seems more in the mainstream.
One heard an opening movement well accented with cheeky, brilliant playing. The slow movement revolved effortlessly around a monochromatic, floating little theme, followed by the tuneful third movement, given its head in the classic-romantic vein. And as all concertos should, it ended exuberantly, with foxy little bursts of gaiety and snatches of lively tunes finally bursting out into a sunny climax.
Turning to other soignee ladies, Wayland introduced many memorable feminine themes - some adorned mostly in their own sweet simplicity, some fussily gotten up. I tended to like the former better, since a good tune speaks largely for itself.
Among the best arrangements and performances was Dwyer/Wayland's way with a Duke Ellington medley, a big, smoky-hot and blue segment with Ellington's inimitable lazy, swinging rhythms. The trumpet squealed out from behind its mute on "Satin Doll," and the saxophone highlighted the title song, "Sophisticated Ladies."
Also outstanding was Hermann's arrangement of the theme from "Laura," surely one of the all-time great sophisticates. Starting underwater with a buildup stolen from Debussy, the orchestra delivered the important themes, accented by thundering waves of sound coming in like breakers - a simple, succinct and very effective statement.
Equally engaging was a thrown-in arrangement of "Lara" from "Dr. Zhivago," certainly one of the most telling uses of some 16 measures of theme ever devised. The use of music box at the beginning and end, with sleighbells lightly chiming, gave the work its perfect spherical form.
"Lady of Spain" slipped along with a satiny, gentle gloss, and "Bess, you is my woman now" was more reflective than usual. An arrangement by Chase caught the essence of Ethel Merman in several upbeat ballads that reflected the brassy sound and unsinkable optimism of the woman.
After a rather long intro, Wayland's "Girl from Ipanema" caught the feeling of underslung gait and bold, inviting glances from under drooping lids built into this song. "Whatever Lola Wants" was the worst example of getting carried away with too much intro on too many sidetracks, before getting down to business. It had its cute moments, but half as much would have been twice as nice.
The program concluded with one if its most effective medleys, featuring unsophisticated ladies of great old ballads like Susannah, Daisy, Clementine, Rosie O'Grady, and Wild Irish Rose. Sometimes the old gals are the best gals after all.