1988 Palais Royal Orchestra | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

1988 Palais Royal Orchestra 

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When society bandleader Paul Whiteman led his Palais Royal Orchestra in "An Experiment in Modern Music" at New York's Aeolian Hall on February 12, 1924, his intention was (in the words of the original program notes) "purely educational": he wanted to demonstrate to high-toned listeners that "the discordant jazz" of the streets had evolved into "the really melodious music of today." To make his case, he offered the premieres of George Gershwin's landmark classical-jazz fusion Rhapsody in Blue and Victor Herbert's A Suite of Serenades (the last piece the operetta master ever wrote), as well as a collection of popular tunes by Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Rudolf Friml, Ferde Grofe, Zez Confrey, and others, organized to showcase the sophisticated new arranging styles of the day. Sixty-four years later, in conductor Maurice Peress's re-creation of the Aeolian Hall event, the intent is more to entertain than to educate; to complement the evocative flavor of the Whiteman band arrangements, period dress is encouraged, and a "best flapper couple contest" will be held. The fine jazz pianist and arranger Dick Hyman plays in the program's earlier, lighter fare, paving the way for classical pianist Ivan Davis's performance of Rhapsody in Blue, with Peress conducting a 23-piece ensemble in the work's lean and vibrant original orchestration, rather than the overblown "Hollywood Bowl" arrangement popularized after Gershwin's death. Sunday, 3 PM, Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress; 922-2110.

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