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Saturday, September 23, 2023


Secret agents come to Houston

Sunday wasn’t a typical night at the symphony.

The audience had the luxury of witnessing a full-fledged orchestra perform with the intimacy and swagger of a traditional jazz band.

Conducted by Michael Krajewski, the Houston Symphony performed an array of hero-inspired theme songs spanning from the action-packed "Best of Bond" to the darker tones of Batman and the jazz-influenced Pink Panther spy theme during 007-The Music of James Bond at Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana St.

The first couple of pieces, however, weren’t all too convincing. As the symphony performed themes from Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice, it was as if the Bond themes were constraining the symphony rather than enabling the musicians to play to their full potential.

But the symphony’s sound flourished as they advanced to the more intricate and musically demanding superhero arrangements.

Going with the theme of hero-inspired music, the symphony performed the more dark and sinister Batman theme song, the whimsical Superman love scene that witnessed the most intriguing higher string work and the adventurous Spiderman theme.

Virtuoso violinist Assia Dulgerska performed a distressingly beautiful solo debut in which her fingers moved flawlessly across the fingerboard for the mournfully passionate Gypsy-themed "Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs), Opus 20."

The unrelenting raw talent of the symphony was revealed as they performed to the familiar jazz grooves of composer Henry Mancini’s "Peter Gunn Meets Mr. Lucky" and the "Inspector Clouseau Theme" from The Pink Panther Strikes Again.

The musicians let loose with "Peter Gunn Meets Mr. Lucky" – a piece laced with a cool, jazzy snare brush, an equally laid-back yet progressively intense electric bass line and a lazily robust brass section flanked with a flaring trumpet which cut clearly above the rest of the symphony to yield the theme’s dominant groove.

Tenor saxophonist Paul Harris became the major player in the "Inspector Clouseau Theme" while boasting a sexy tenor sax melody that slowly ebbed and flowed alongside the song’s flawless transitions between the staunch brass work, an outbreak of fleeting woodwinds and the finely tuned and all-too recognizable xylophone melody.

Ending on a high-note, the orchestra performed "The Best of Bond" – an inventive arrangement comprised of many Bond themes – to boast light layers of energetic, intertwining string work, an immaculate five-piece drum solo and seemingly endless, melodic twists and turns by the woodwinds.

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