Thomas Pandolfi is a smashing hit in Hobson

By: 
VICKY MCCRAY
Special to the News-Argus

The Judith Arts Society audience is not opposed to giving performers standing ovations, but they are somewhat stingy with them. The performer must have really wowed them to earn such a compliment.
Obviously, virtuoso pianist Thomas Pandolfi captivated and enchanted them on Sunday afternoon because they were on their feet the moment the pianist dramatically raised his hands from the piano after the first half of his performance. Why, Pandolfi hadn’t even stood up from the piano bench when the audience came to their feet, hands and cheers showing their appreciation for the man’s amazing talent.
Folks were again on their feet at the end of Pandolfi’s performance. Two standing ovations! They speak volumes about the reception shown to Thomas Pandolfi.
They also clearly point out the spectacular concert Pandolfi provided for the conclusion of the JAS 2016-17 season.
Several people personally expressed their thanks to Pandolfi for coming to Hobson. He, in turn, thanked them.
“You are a wonderful audience. I am certainly enjoying performing for you,” Pandolfi told those in attendance, about 60 very good listeners, prior to his second set.
JAS Board members heard from many that Pandolfi was by far the best performer they have ever brought to the area.
The afternoon was comfortable for listeners, as Pandolfi took time to visit with them prior to each piece he performed. His explanations added to their grasp of the various pieces, some of which had typical classical titles such as Nocturne, Etude and Polonaise, with opus numbers used to distinguish compositions with similar titles and to indicate chronological order.
The first set began with British composer Richard Addinsell’s “Warsaw Concerto.” Pandolfi said a movie producer had asked Addinsell to “accomplish an almost impossible task ­– to please compose a work for piano and orchestra for a movie soundtrack that sounds just like Rachmaninoff” – probably one of the greatest composers that ever lived.
Pandolfi explained the producer had actually asked Rachmaninoff first, but the composer turned him down, so the producer had to go to Plan B.
Out of the call came one of the most famous piano pieces ever composed. It ran throughout the 1941 film, “Dangerous Moonlight.” The piece contains two themes, Pandolfi said, one the storm and stress of war and the second a beautiful romantic theme that represents the love of the film’s two main characters.
Pandolfi noted in sharing Addinsell’s concerto he would have “to do an almost impossible task myself” because he did not have an orchestra with him.
“I have to do the work of about 80 plus people here,” he said.
And he certainly did just that.
Following the concerto, Pandolfi took his listeners back in music history to the 19th century when Chopin, probably the most famous and greatest composer for piano, was born. He lived only 39 years but during his lifetime accomplished a remarkable amount of material.
“Chopin marries brilliance and poetry in the most wonderful way,” Pandolfi said.
The pianist shared a dreamy piece, a nocturne, the second of 21 that Chopin wrote. Pandolfi said the Second Nocturne in E-Flat Major has special significance for him because it was through it that he met his fiancée.
The second Chopin piece was an etude, a “wild study for the left hand,” Pandolfi said.
The third and fourth Chopin pieces were favorite dance forms the composer loved, the waltz and the polonaise.
To end his first set, Pandolfi shared “Hamlisch Fantasy,” a transcription on Marvin Hamlisch’s most popular melodies.
“We are entering the portion of the program that you might consider to be the dessert portion,” Pandolfi told his listeners.
He explained Hamlisch was only 7 years old when he auditioned for the pre-college division of The Julliard School and was accepted.
“He made history being the youngest student to ever attend that school,” Pandolfi added, “and even more remarkable it was in two areas, not just one – in piano and composition.”
Hamlisch was interested early in musical theater and film scores, which is where he made his greatest success as an adult. Pandolfi said the composer seems to have had an extra special gift for melodies, “the kind of melodies that go right to your heart and touch you on a very deep emotional level, whether you’re performing or listening.”
The Fantasy included the theme song from “The Way We Were,” the song with the same title as the film; three songs from “A Chorus Line”: “I Hope I Get It,” “What I Did for Love” and “One”; “Nobody Does It Better” from Hamlisch’s 1970s James Bond movie, “The Spy Who Loved Me”; “Through the Eyes of Love” from “Ice Castles”; a rag Hamlisch borrowed from Scott Joplin for his film “The Sting”; and “I Finally Found Someone” from “A Mirror with Two Faces.”
Pandolfi paired Leonard Bernstein with George Gershwin in his second set because “Bernstein could often be seen sitting at the keyboard in front of either the New York Philharmonic or the Berlin Philharmonic and he would often play “Rhapsody in Blue” while conducting from the keyboard.
“That is, of course, a very impressive feat,” Pandolfi added.
Best remembered as a great conductor, a great pianist and a great composer, Pandolfi said Bernstein was also a great communicator. His Young People’s Concerts, 53 in all, were televised on CBS from 1958 to 1972.
Pandolfi played a transcription of what is probably considered one of Bernstein’s most beloved works, “West Side Story.” The piece included “I Feel Pretty,” “One Hand, One Heart,” “Maria,” “America” and “Somewhere.”
Pandolfi shared that next year celebrates the centenary year of the anniversary of Bernstein’s birth. He was born in 1918 and died in 1990.
The pianist concluded his concert with George Gershwin’s most famous piece, “Rhapsody in Blue.”
“I never get tired of playing it,” Pandolfi said, “I think most of the audiences that I have performed this for seem to embrace it. No matter what part of the world that you’re in, it’s truly a piece of Americana, and if you fly the ‘friendly skies of United Airlines’ you will certainly hear it.”
After his second standing ovation, Pandolfi played his own arrangement of themes from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera.” The pianist also took time to chat with a number of his listeners.

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