Parker, Tovey shine in NY Philharmonic opener | VailDaily.com

Parker, Tovey shine in NY Philharmonic opener

Jon Kimura Parker plays Grieg's Piano Concerto with the New York Philharmonic on Friday night at Bravo! Vail at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. Despite some early rain, the New York Philharmonic, as usual, draw a large crowd for the opening night of its residency at the music festival.

VAIL — Those who attend Bravo! Vail are a hearty lot and rain will not deter them from the New York Philharmonic, particularly on the opening night of its residency.

The Philharmonic, led by Bramwell Tovey, performed to a sellout crowd in the covered reserve section and a good-sized contingent on the lawn, given the seasonally cool and damp weather, with a program of Mendelssohn, Grieg and Elgar on Friday night at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater.

"The first thing I have to do is salute all of the people on the lawn with their umbrellas," said Tovey from the stage at the start of the concert. "Give us a twirl with your umbrellas, will you?"

They did.

"Bravo," he said.

'WET FEET, READY TO GO'

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Packy Walker, a longtime local, had grabbed a seat on the lawn and sheltered himself in an old-school Broncos helmet-shaped umbrella.

"This goes back about 35 years ago. This has traveled around the world at least once. I didn't know I still had it but I'm proud to have it," Walker said. "It keeps me dry. It's exciting every year. Every year, we come here. It's fabulous. Wet feet, ready to go."

Gail Lewis, of Indianapolis was also on the lawn, She does wilderness canoeing, so even though the rain before the concert was steady, she was fine.

"To hear the New York Philharmonic, I'll sit through just about anything," she said. "This is light. This is not a big deal. It's not a deluge or anything. We won't need an ark or anything."

CALLING CARD

Tovey led the Philharmonic in the national anthem, more conducting the audience than the orchestra. This is Tovey's calling card. As he did Friday night, he often speaks to the audience to describe the works to be performed.

After Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture, he did give way to John Kimura Parker, who performed an enthralling version of Grieg's Piano Concerto. Clad in a white jacket, blue shirt and a patterned tie, Parker stylishly worked his way up and down the keyboard, sometimes hopping off the bench.

The audience hopped in response with a standing ovation after the final chord.

Tovey took to the microphone again, having a little fun with the title of the concert, "Bramwell Unravels Elgar's Enigma."

"I was a little discouraged when I got here this morning for rehearsal and saw a book lying open at the page of tonight's concert," Tovey said. "I glanced down at it and read just the words 'Bramwell Unravels' … You feel funny at 8,000 feet."

Tovey explained each of the movements of Elgar's Enigma Variations extensively, and then he and the New York Philharmonic delivered an impassioned interpretation of the work.

Keeping with the English composer, the New York Philharmonic performed an encore, Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1.

The Philharmonic's residency continues tonight at 6 with "The Weilersteins and Tchaikovsky" with cellist Alisa Weilerstein and her brother Joshua Weilerstein at the baton for an evening of works primarily by the Russian composer.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, cfreud@vaildaily.com and @cfreud.