Monday, May 19, 2014

New York Classical Players - Mozart, Lin, Mendelssohn & Janacek - 05/18/14

Conductor: Dongmin Kim
Mozart: Divertimento K. 136
Wei-Chieh Jay Lin: Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Strings
Katie Hyun: Violin
Michael Katz: Cello
Mendelssohn: String Sinfonia No. 2 in D Major
Janacek: Suite for String Orchestra

T'is this time of the year again, when music institutions and ensembles are industriously wrapping up their season, the audiences suddenly distracted by fair weather activities are dwindling down, and I do my best to catch those last performances before the quiet months of summer.
That's why yesterday afternoon I decided not to let the untimely cold that had already made me cancel my planned weekend in DC keep me down any longer before prudently gulping down some cough syrup and arming myself with tissues, Ricolas and water. Then I briskly walked up Broadway all the way to the beautiful Broadway Presbyterian Church to hear the New York Classical Players close their own busy season, including their first-ever mini US tour, with another free, open-to-all, no-holds-barred string feast featuring the household names of Mozart, Mendelssohn and Janacek as well as newcomer Wei-Chieh Jay Lin.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is rightfully one of the most famous figures in music for his knack to handle everything coming his way with incredible ease and extraordinary craftsmanship, and the delightful Divertimento that opened the concert is yet one more example of this supernatural ability. Written when the composer was 16 years old and performed with impressive poise by the young musicians of the orchestra, it was an irresistible mix of German precision, Italian joie de vivre and the composer's trademark elegance. Definitely a cheerful beginning if there ever was one.
Then we moved on to Wei-Chieh Jay Lin's Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Strings, which was commissioned by The New York Classical Players and inspired by, of all things, Monet's Garden in Giverny. There was, however, nothing bucolic about the constant tension, sometimes discreetly underlying, sometimes loudly exploding, that ran through the whole piece, wreaking havoc in the two soloists' tentative relationship. On the other hand, the blurring between the reflection and the reality of the celebrated lily pond was most accurately transposed as violin and cello found themselves fighting for their legitimate place in the ever-changing composition. Nonplussed by the technical challenges, all musicians followed the steadfast lead of Dongmin Kim and delivered a tight performance that could only please the composer, who was in attendance.
And that was not all, as violinist Katie Hyun and cellist Michael Katz treated the enthusiastic audience to a special encore that took us back to Mozart with the third movement of his Duo for Violin and Viola in G Major, the cello impeccably filling in for the viola in this case, clearly proving that they were as comfortable with thorny contemporary adventures as with quintessential classical works.
We were back to more absurdly accomplished music composed by another child prodigy in his teenage years after intermission with Mendelssohn's enchanting String Sinfonia No. 2, which happily filled the whole space with youthful exuberance, pretty melodies and vibrant colors.
The concert, and the season, ended with Janacek's Suite for String Orchestra, written when he had already reached the ripe age of 23. Made of six distinct movements, it presented various moods, including the high-spirited Presto to the ethereal Adagio and concluded with the voluptuous lyricism of the Andante. I could not have expected more memorable final notes to carry me over until next season.

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