Disguised in sparkly New Year’s Eve costumes as crowd-pleasing programs of light fare, the Santa Barbara Symphony’s New Year’s Eve Pops concerts are actually stimulating sources of thought-provoking party music. Taking an approach that’s grounded in the history of the orchestral “Pops” repertoire in America, and of the groundbreaking Boston Pops in particular, Maestro Robert Bernhardt illustrates and emphasizes what’s interesting about a wide range of musical styles, even as he teases the festive audience with goofy puns and witty allusions. His style on the podium owes something to the original king of the Pops, Arthur Fiedler, and his programming usually reflects his passion for the music of Fiedler’s successor in Boston, the great film composer John Williams.
And the S.B. Symphony’s New Year’s Eve Pops Concert for 2014/15 is no exception. In fact, this week’s show will be something of a summation of Bernhardt’s mission, as he and guest artist pianist Michael Chertock have put together a program that pays a two-part homage to Fiedler and Williams. Bernhardt has been a frequent guest conductor with the Boston Pops, and Chertock has played Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with them more than 40 times. “He’s got his own great way of playing it,” said Bernhardt recently of Chertock’s Rhapsody performances, “and if he keeps on going, maybe someday it will catch on.”
The famous Rhapsody has a long history with the Boston Pops, as they were the first orchestra to issue a full recording of Gershwin’s masterpiece. The opening half of the concert will feature the Gershwin and other works associated with Arthur Fiedler, including several pieces by Leroy Anderson, whose “Blue Tango” was the first instrumental recording ever to sell more than a million copies. In the second half, it’s time for Williams, with Bernhardt and the orchestra revisiting the composer’s first Oscar-winning score, for the 1982 film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof. For tickets and information, call (805) 899-2222 or visit thesymphony.org.