Monday, October 29, 2018


by Dwight Casimere

 Russian maestro Tugan Sokhiev in his New York Philharmonic debut

Below: New York Philharmonic Concermaster Frank Huang will perform the Barber Violin Concerto Oct. 31, Nov. 1 and Nov. 3 with the orchestra

The New York Philharmonic's inaugural Saturday Matinee proved a real treat for the audience. One of the new initiatives of Music Director Jaap van Zweden in his inaugural season, the concerts are an opportunity to greater familiarize concert-goers with orchestra members and provide them with a forum to ask questions in an interactive discussion post-concert.   

Saturday's program featured the Mendelssohn String Quintet in B-flat major, featuring Members of the New York Philharmonic Michelle Kim and QianQian Li on Violins, Rebecca Young and Cong Wu on Violas and Eileen Moon-Meyers on Cello. 

Mendelssohn's Quintet is exuberant. The lead violin leads the ensemble members in an energetic opening theme romps through a series of athletic themes. The accompanying instruments then evolve through a series of structural and harmonic processes that coalesce at the end. Its an exciting musical adventure that really showed the prowess of the orchestra's individual members to an appreciative audience.

Russian maestro Tugan Sokhiev, in his New York Philharmonic debut, could not have chosen a more appropriate piece to show off both his and the orchestra's prowess. The Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4  in F-minor is a showcase that gives each section of the orchestra a workout with ample room for dramatic, heart-wrenching solos. The Philharmonic's majestic horns declared the opening theme, with brooding strings leading into the Romantic melodies and heartfelt waltzes that dominated both the beginning and ending movements of the work. Exceptional solos from the first violin and solos from the flute, piccolo and English horn  punctuated the imposing work. The timpani and percussion section helped bring the symphony to its thundering conclusion with brought a rapturous, prolonged ovation from the audience.

Tchaikovsky reportedly wrote the piece while in the throes of a tempestuous relationship with his patron, Nadezhda Filaretovna von Meck.The two allegedly carried out a torrid emotional affair, but in letters only, having made a fierce commitment to never meet in person. Von Meck suddenly broke off the relationship in 1890 without explanation.  

Tchaikovsky described the symphony as "an unbroken alternation of hard reality with swiftly passing dramas and visions of happiness.” Sokhiev, used his hands rather than a baton, to mold the orchestra's sound and signal its soloists to marvelous effect, bringing out both the drama and the richness of Tchaikovsky's masterpiece.

The concert was followed with a lively interactive panel discussion on the prospects of the orchestra under its new Music Director, Jaap van Zweden.

Juraj Valcuha, Music Director of the Teatro de San Carlos in Naples,  conducts and New York Philharmonic Concertmaster Frank Huang is the violin solo for a program of Korngold's Much Ado About Nothing, Barber's Violin Concerto and Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances, Weds Oct. 31, Thurs. Nov. 1 and Sat, Nov. 3.  Visit for concert times and ticket information.

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