Conductor: Dongmin Kim
Mozart: Divertimento No 3, K. 138
Bottesini: Grand Duo for Violin and Double Bass – Josef Spacek (Violin) & Daxun Zhang (Double Bass)
Walton: Sonata for String Orchestra
After a particularly hectic week at work and upon finally reconciling my system with the time change, which I hadn’t see come in, what could be more appropriate than a soothing yet inspiring classical music concert? Nothing. Luckily, I had already made plans to finally go hear the fabulous New York Classical Players again on Friday night. So I made my way to the foreign territory that is Upper East Side in general and the Czech Center in particular with a couple of like-minded friends to get the weekend rolling under the best auspices possible.
The Bohemian National Hall at the Czech Center is a charmingly understated venue, except for the eye-popping touches reminiscent of the occupants’ native land such as a couple of impressive chandeliers, an intricate iron-wrought railing on the upper level, and buoyant overhead decorations above the stage. Buoyant was also the mood of the first work, Mozart’s Divertimento No 3. And in the highly capable hands of the musicians before us, it became an elegantly entertaining greeting that immediately made everybody feel welcome to this musical celebration.
After Mozart’s familiar radiance, we were on to a brand new adventure in the form of an unusual duo between a violin and a double bass by a composer we had never heard of, Bottesini. Our open-mindedness paid off though and the piece turned out to be one wild ride boasting of a wide variety of rhythms and influences. Through it all, the focus of the experience remained the virtuosic dialog between the two soloists, Josef Spacek and Daxun Zhang, who were brilliantly supported by the orchestra and its relentlessly multi-tasking conductor, Dongmin Kim.
After this big showpiece, it was time for an intimate journey with contemporary composer Elliott Bark’s unabashedly emotional Reminiscence. Regardless of the shortness of the work, there is little doubt that its deeply atmospheric qualities have left a lasting impression on the audience.
A complex and engaging composition, Walton’s Sonata for String Orchestra also drew on many influences in order to create a whole of surprising coherence. While the opening and closing movements distinguished themselves with plenty of grandeur and energy, it is the lush, melancholic lyricism of the slow movement that strongly stood out for me.
Obviously appreciative of the enthusiastic ovation they rightfully got, the indefatigable musicians came back for a lovely party favor in Grieg’s The First Meeting. It could not get more soothing yet inspiring than that, and the weekend had effectively started under the best auspices possible.