Tuesday, March 19, 2013

New York Classical Players - Bridge, Lewin & Vivaldi - 03/18/13

Conductor: Dongming Kim
Bridge: Suite for String Orchestra
Lewin: Concerto on Silesian Tunes, Movement III (Transcribed for string orchestra for the New York City Players by Yoomi Paick)
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons - Cho-Liang Lin

After the intensity of the previous weekend, which was brimming with an eclectic mix of philosophical musings, youthful energy and urban angst, and the blissful quietness of the week that followed it, I was more than ready for the uplifting brilliance of Vivaldi's Four Seasons on Sunday afternoon, especially since they were going to be performed by the reliably flawless New York Classical Players with special guest world-renowned violinist Cho-Liang Lin. As New Yorkers are increasingly pining for spring while winter is stubbornly dragging its feet - Did it really snow all day on Saturday?! - my friend Dawn and I decided that one of the best places to wait for sunshine and warmth was the Church of Heavenly Rest on the Upper East Side for yet another free, open-to-all concert of life-affirming music.

The performance started with Frank Bridge's neo-classical Suite for String Orchestra, whose simple, straightforward lyricism was truly enjoyable. Once the late-comers had finished settling down, we could all happily revel in its gentle melodies and uncomplicated harmonies. But easily accessible does not mean insignificant, and the virtuosic strings of the New York Classical Players whole-heartedly brought this wonderful piece to subtantial life.
Frank Lewin's third movement of his Concerto on Silesian Tunes, transcribed for the occasion, turned out beautifully elegiac. Opening with a long dark cello solo, the music eventually expanded with all the strings glowingly coming into play before gently ending in a whisper.
As violinist Cho-Liang Lin rightly pointed out, Vivaldi's Four Seasons need no introduction. Starting on the upbeat note of nature's rebirth, Dongmin Kim and his musicians took the captive audience on a vividly evocative musical journey through the unstoppable return to life of the joyful spring, the excitedly chirping birds before the flamboyant storm of the hot summer, the completion of the hard labor followed by the folk dances of the happy autumn, and the blistering wind competing with the warm fireplace of the bitter winter. With the added bonus of having Cho-Liang Lin read the sonnet corresponding to each season before picking up his violin, the genius of the composer and the talent of the orchestra were perfectly in line for a delightful performance of the timeless masterpiece.

But that was not all. After confessing some strong family ties to the Church of Heavenly Rest - that's where he got married and Sunday happened to be his mum's birthday - Cho-Liang Lin was kind enough to treat her and us to a sweet yet elegant Adagio movement of Haydn's concerto in C Major. One last heart-warming musical goodie before reluctantly going out in the bitter cold again.

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