Radnofsky shows off with 'Lord Buckley'
I would be less than candid if I did not say right off that my taste for saxophone players runs more to Coleman Hawkins and Gerry Mulligan than Kenneth Radnofsky. But as the lament goes - "Ah, yes, I was wrong. Again, I was wrong."
For Tuesday night at City Hall, Radnofsky, backed by the Portland Symphony Orchestra, expanded my taste and my appreciation of what a beautiful solo in. strument a saxophone is. And he did it in the world premiere of a work commissioned by the Portland Symphony Trustees - David Amram's "Ode to Lord Buckley."
Radnofsky's command of his instrument is remarkable, almost uncanny, for the range he's required to encompass in Amram's affectionate work. The concerto's namesake was an underground comedian of the 50s and 60s who the composer saw as a combination of Walt Whitman, Charlie Parker, Baudelaire and Laurence Olivier.
The piece's overture, with its upbeat and bluesy themes, gives way to a more melodic "Ballad" that shows off Radnofsky at his lucid, lyrical best. "Don't let anyone fool you," jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins once said, "melody is difficult to play. Great control is needed." Radnofsky fuses his great control with grace to bring out the beauty of this section.
Finally, in a section called "Taxim; Ein Adir," the concerto sweeps through a sephardic theme which adds more luster to the virtuosity of Radnofsky's playing.
The finish brought most of the appreciative audience to its feet, and also brought on stage the effusive Amram, who, along with Radnofsky and PSO Conductor Bruce Hangen, returned again and again to applause and cheers.
Also on the program were Stravinsky's "Symphonies of Winds," Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun," and Beethoven's "Symphony No. 8, in F Major."
But the evening belonged to the contemporaries - Radnofsky and Amram - the latter joyfully clutching a fistful of cigars while on stage. Monday night, Mrs. Amram gave birth to a 7-pound girl.