Soloists Jonathan Vu & Steve Yoo with Conductor Dave Dally
It was an enthusiastic audience at Pacific Grove Middle School Performing Arts Center last night that gave standing ovations for the orchestra and the young soloists for their performance of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and the Brahms Symphony No. 4.
Several decades ago violinist and conductor Dave Dally started a modest string class at MPC that met on Monday nights. As more local players joined the class it eventually evolved into a community orchestra presenting ambitious programs of substantial symphonic works, often with impressive local soloists, in concerts presented at MPC on a regular basis, and occasionally at other venues. Dally has built a solid reputation as a fine musician and a conductor who inspires loyalty and affection among local players and local audiences.
Last night we had a real treat as two young violinists, Steve Yoo and Jonathan Vu, performed the Mendelssohn Violin Concert in its entirety (Yoo playing the first movement and Vu playing the two concluding movements). Seventeen-year-old Steve Yoo, a junior at Carmel High School began his violin studies with Arlyn Knapic, and later continued with Rochelle Walton, his teacher for the past six years. Jonathan Vu, a junior at York School, has been studying violin with RoseMarie Dunsford since the age of five.
These two young violinists have been proactive in many musical activities in our community and have won numerous honors in school music programs. Last night we were hearing them as soloists in a major concerto, and in this they managed to play like young professionals on their way to successful musical careers. Steve Yoo launched into the Mendelssohn Concerto’s first movement with the mastery and confidence of a mature musician who is master of his craft.
Yoo demonstrated an artistic control of dynamics and shaping of phrases. His melodies soared, his double stops were solid, and his harmonics were dazzling in their accuracy of pitch and intensity. His cadenza was impressive as it carried us up to the end where his arpeggiated bowed chords speeded up along with a delicious diminuendo as the orchestra entered with a return to the main theme. This was a magic moment.
Jonathan Vu impressed us with his lovely and intense shaping of melodies in the Mendelssohn’s slow movement — they were beautiful. The final movement carried us along on a torrent of exciting passages and repartee with the orchestra to its glorious final moments.
After intermission Dally led the orchestra through a performance of Brahms’ Fourth Symphony — a challenging work by any standard, and especially for a community orchestra of less than 50 players. However, the music came through like gangbusters and we heard some fine solos by flutist Karen King, clarinetist Erica Horn, concertmaster Gretchen Taylor and others. The final movement of the symphony achieved a glorious splendor, for no matter how many times you hear this great symphony it always makes a powerful effect.
Dally announced to the audience that violinist Peter Mellinger would be appearing the following evening at Sunset Center in Carmel with the Pomona Orchestra. By a curious coincidence the Pomona Orchestra program would also contain the Mendelssohn Concerto and Brahms Fourth Symphony. Mellinger, a former pupil of Rochelle Walton, covered himself with honors as a high school student on the Monterey Peninsula. He was concertmaster of the YMMC Honors Orchestra, appeared several time with the Carmel Bach Festival Young Musicians Showcase and appeared as soloist in the Bruch Concerto with the YMMC Honors Orchestra.