Music Director and Conductor: Dongmin Kim
Wagner: Prelude to Tristan and Isolde for Strings (arranged by Yoomi Paick)
Bartok: Divertimento for String Orchestra Sz. 113 BB, 118
Holst: Jupiter (arranged by Samuel Adler)
Beethoven: Triple Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano (arranged by Yoomi Paick)
Michael Katz: Cello
HaeSun Paik: Piano
Josef Spacek: Violin
One week and one day after my season-opening concert with the New York Philharmonic, I was eagerly looking forward to attending my season-opening concert with the New York Classical Players, who obligingly were performing it at the W83 Auditorium, a nice concert hall even closer to my apartment than the David Geffen Hall. And while the feisty chamber orchestra may not be quite as world-famous as the larger ensemble down the road just yet, its musicians have proven time and time again that they can readily compete with their more established colleagues in terms of technical skills and adventurous spirit.
Moreover, this special occasion would not be just the first program of a new and goodies-packed season. It would also celebrate the 10th anniversary of the New York Classical Players’ creation; in other words, 10 years of high-quality classical music offered for free to everybody in an ever-expanding radius that has so far reached New York City, New Jersey, California and Korea, and will also include Bolivia this season.
Back in the Big Apple, after a busy day in Coney Island for a fun outdoor art exhibit, Brighton Beach for authentic Russian food, and the Upper West Side for a de rigueur Italian dinner at Celeste, my visiting friend Vittorio and I eventually plopped ourselves down among the eclectic audience for an evening of Romantic works by Richard Wagner, Bela Bartok, Gustav Holst and Ludwig van Beethoven.
Probably more by chance than by design, my season-opening concert by the NY Phil started with the overture to a potential opera by Phillip Glass, and my season-opening concert by the NYCP would start with the prelude to a landmark opera by Richard Wagner. And it is worth noting that the prelude to Tristan and Isolde was first heard in concert before the entire opera was finished too. Beautifully arranged by Yoomi Paick for a chamber string orchestra and superbly performed by the Classical Players on Saturday night, the music vividly expressed unquenchable longing in big lush Romantic waves that were as overpowering as the intense passion uniting the two lovers.
After the gorgeous agony of forbidden love, we were shaken up from our ecstatic torpor by Bartok’s Divertimento and its zesty liveliness straight from Eastern European folk-dance tunes. The mood grew significantly darker during the second movement, but perked up again for the Finale, and provided us with a priceless opportunity to experience first-hand the blazing talent of violinist Tai Murray, who was filling the role of concertmaster with innate musicality and irrepressible flair.
After the intermission, we moved to England for one of Holst’s popular Planets, and let’s face it, if you’re going to pick one, it might as well be mighty Jupiter, AKA “The Bringer of Jollity”, which had been arranged for strings by Samuel Adler. And the glowing strings of the orchestra sounded like they were having a jolly good time indeed bringing out the punch and polish of the highly influential and enduringly popular suite in just about eight minutes.
We concluded the evening with Beethoven’s Triple Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano arranged by Yoomi Paick. True to its commitment of showcasing promising young talents, the NYCP had invited cellist Michael Katz and violinist Josef Spacek to be part of the featured trio, along with eminent pianist and teacher HaeSun Paik. Consequently, there were quite a few musicians on that stage, and it is to maestro Kim’s credit that all the various moving parts ended up making one impressively seamless whole, with nevertheless a special mention for Katz who brilliantly distinguished himself in what had to be the most challenging part of the score. Even if it does not have the same scope and rigorousness as some of the composer’s better works, the easily engaging Triple Concerto is still a natural charmer in the right hands, and we certainly had them on Saturday night.