by Sandy Staggs, Carolina Curtain Call
Stefan Sanders is officially a Hub City resident. A Sparkle City denizen. Spartanburg’s newest prominent citizen. And as music director for the Spartanburg Philharmonic, Sanders is already cementing his reputation as a local treasure.
Sanders conducted his first official concert Saturday, Sept. 29 in an engaging program of 20th Century popular classics by Bernstein, Gershwin and Ravel for the organization’s 90th Year Celebration. And the result was no less than stellar. Also joining the Philharmonic family was the maestro’s wife, harpist Kela Walton, and his mother in the audience who travelled all the way from Austin, Texas for his debut.
In honor of Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday, the symphony orchestra performed a delightful rendition of the composer’s ground-breaking and successful stand-alone “Overture” from ”Candide,” which features an eclectic arrangement of the operetta’s arias and themes at breakneck speeds such as “Oh Happy We” and “Glitter and Be Gay.” I had just seen the Greenville Symphony Orchestra play this piece in its all-Bernstein tribute one week prior and Spartanburg’s performance was just as grand.
In the first of two George Gershwin pieces, an animated Sanders and the orchestra dazzled in the whimsical tone poem to the City of Lights, “An American in Paris.” From the dynamic sounds of taxi horns along a leisurely stroll down the Champs-Elysées, to the frenzied rhythmic pacing of urban wonderment from an American expatriate perspective, the orchestra exuded a French sensibility with aplomb…