Youth Music Monterey – Opening Concert of its 2016-2017 Season

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In our sports-dominated world, where it is all too common to enter a school and see a  sign proclaiming “Athlete of the Month,” it is indeed gratifying to see large groups of fine young musicians playing their hearts out on the stage of Sunset Center Theater in Carmel. Not only does this serve to remind us that music plays an important part in the lives of school age students, but it also serves to remind us that we are hearing these young orchestral players in a first-class concert venue like Sunset Center, rather than an uncomfortable, dusty gymnasium or a school assembly hall, thanks to the organizational efforts of the board and officers of Youth Music Monterey (YMM).

And let us also give credit to the scores of teachers who are instructing the young students in music fundamentals and instrumental mastery, plus the help from parents and community donors, without whose financial support, these young musicians most probably would be performing in gymnasiums and assembly halls. And then we must give thanks to YMM’s Music Director/Conductor (and fine violinist), Farkhad Khudyev, who has been a source of inspiration and encouragement to all those who come in contact with him.

Before yesterday’s concert YMM President Dorothy Micheletti addressed the audience and announced that thanks to the generosity of Peter Meckel and Hidden Valley Music Seminars, the young players in the Junior Youth Orchestra and the Honors Orchestra now have a permanent place for rehearsals at Hidden Valley’s superb theater. Since rehearsals for all the young musicians comprising the Junior and Honors Orchestras (and some smaller ensemble groups) could be a logistical nightmare, having a suitable rehearsal space is a very valuable asset.

The concert began with three selections performed by the Junior Youth Orchestra: Slavonic Rhapsody No. 2 by Carl Friedemann, Romanian Overture by Merle Isaac and Keltic Lament by John Foulds. The theme of YMM’s new season, Cultures and Traditions, helps to explain how the first half of the concert featured three composers unfamiliar to most audiences — two of the three compositions had the flavor of eastern Europe, while the Keltic Lament was a fine example of the lighter music by British composer Foulds. As always we are impressed by the enthusiasm and genuine achievements of the Junior Youth Orchestra. The spirited playing and instrumental master demonstrated by the young players was heartwarming indeed.

[Editor’s note: Because of prior engagement, I had to leave at intermission. Another of our contributing reviewers, Beverly Davidson, stayed to review the second half of the concert by the Honors Orchestra. Her portion of the review is entered below.]

This was, I am a bit shy to say, my first experience with the full orchestras of Youth Music Monterey Bay, though I had heard, and very was impressed by, some of their chamber groups in the past. The evening before the YMM concert I had met their conductor and Music Director Farkhad Khudyev at the Carmel 100th Birthday concert by the Academy of St Martin in the Fields presented by Carmel Music Society. Khudyev, who is charming and charismatic, told me about  oboist, Elizabeth Koch Tiscione, from the Atlanta Symphony, who would appear at this concert as soloist for the Mozart Oboe Concerto K314.

To say she was a revelation would be understatement. Her playing was flawless and virtuosic. Conductor Khudyev kept everyone well in sync and the orchestra sounded well rehearsed and beautiful, and never overwhelmed her. You could close your eyes and think you were hearing an adult professional orchestra. The young players of the YMM orchestras represent over 30 schools, so the members have challenges regarding meshing and their styles, schools and teachers. But Khudyev is amazing in his ability to bring it all together. His choice of soloist was brilliant as she plays such a difficult instrument with utter fluidity and musicianship. A young and a beautiful presence, she made her solo debut with the Atlanta Symphony in 2014 and also has performed in the Aspen Music Festival. Hearing her has given me hope for future generations, as long as we older citizens can politically protect them.

The most exquisite part of the Mozart experience,for me, was the second movement. It was full of beautiful poignant melody and Oboist Tiscione and the orchestra brilliantly performed it. Conductor Khudyev has taught his musicians the importance of playing softly, thank goodness, so they were a perfect accompaniment to this soloist. The first and third movements were fast and flawlessly played — really amazing musicianship at this tempo.

In addition to the Mozart, the The Hector Berlioz Roman Carnival Overture was the first musical offering in the second half of the program, which, after a rather adagio passage, goes into full swing and huge Berlozian verve. The nearly full hall at Sunset Center was joyously appreciative of this rendition.

The final selection,after the Mozart,was George Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody. It began with a musically brilliant clarinet solo by orchestra member Daniel Hernandez.His playing had a Stoltzman-like clarity. I also enjoyed many of the other solo and duet lines throughout the second half of the concert.Harpist, Issabelle Sanford  and oboist Danylo  Didszak performed admirably in their featured solo parts. Their percussionists were also very precise and musically sensitive. Sue Mudge, one of the teachers in this group, played along with the trombone section and her Tower-Music-like clarity added a great brass touch to the section of bright trumpets, and trombones and French horn players in Roman Rhapsody.

I was thrilled by this exuberant and precise music, its dedicated Conductor and the support of parents, grandparents, and friends in the audience. I will be returning to hear them more often the future!

Consider this:, for seniors and students the tickets are $10. It’s a great deal.

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