Conductor: Dongmin Kim
Wagner: Prelude from Tristan and Isolde (arr. Yoomi Paick)
Fung: String Sinfonietta
Mozart: Violin Concerto No 5 in A Major, K 219,"Turkish" - Sean Lee
Mozart: Adagio and Fugue, K 546
Now that everybody is back in business and the official season is solidly underway, last week was full of exciting musical adventures of many sorts before wrapping up yesterday with the first concert of the New York Classical Players' Season 4. Moreover, I was particularly happy to go back to their Upper East Side home, the Church of the Heavenly Rest, not only because it is such a wonderful space, but also because I got to reach it by walking through Central Park on another splendid October afternoon. I actually felt kind of sorry about leaving the golden sun and crisp air behind, but on the other hand, I walked into the nave fully aware that everybody there was pretty darn lucky to be able to enjoy such a stellar ensemble play masterworks by Wagner and Mozart for free. So on with the music!
A new version of the Prelude from Tristan and Isolde arranged for small string ensemble started the concert on a deeply Romantic note, the characters' passionate longing for each other gorgeously expressed in the long Wagnerian lines, which the musicians handled masterfully. Just listening to this prelude solidified the notion that changing the course of music history can also be a truly transporting experience for creator and listeners.
Next, Vivian Fung's "String Sinfonietta" had a lot was going on in it, constantly keeping the orchestra and the audience at the edge of their seats. Displaying a wide range of moods and plenty of pizzicatos, this little string symphony was big on surprises and a real pleasure for the ears, with maestro Kim assuredly leaving no detail unattended.
Then we went back to a tried and true classic with Mozart's fifth and last violin concerto. Bristling with the inventiveness and elegance that have come to characterize its composer's oeuvre, the Turkish was a perfect opportunity to hear out young violinist Sean Lee, who passed the daunting test without any difficulty. His refined tone proved a natural fit for the work's understated lyricism, and he knew exactly when to let lose in the most exuberant moments.
As a bonus, our enthusiastic ovation earned us a deftly rendered Preludio from Bach's Partita No 3 in E Major, which turned out to be the ideal transition for the next, and last, but by no means least, piece on the program.
So we went back to Mozart, but incidentally enhanced by a touch of Bach this time, with his "Adagio and Fugue", which I personally consider one of the Viennese master's most spectacular achievements. Combining dramatic outbursts with compelling rhythms, the whole work progresses with an underlying dark intensity that makes it all the more spell-binding. Thanks to their remarkable sense of musicality, the New York Classical Players delivered a performance that projected all the endless complexity of the short composition, and concluded this delightful concert with virtuosity and flair.