YMMC Competition Winner Courtney McDonald
Youth Music Monterey County attracted a huge audience at Sunset Center on Sunday afternoon. YMMC President Dorothy Micheletti gave a warm welcome to the talented young performers, their families who support them, and to their hardworking teachers who inspire them. She also gave thanks to all the donors whose financial generosity makes it possible to present concerts in a very professional venue like Sunset Center, rather than in a school auditorium on squeaky chairs or, heavens forbid, a gymnasium — where some youth orchestras with leaner budgets might end up performing. Thanks were also given to Hidden Valley Music Seminars, whose Director, Peter Meckel, continues to provide much needed rehearsal facilities. Since this concert not only represented the end of YMMC’s 2017-2018 season, but also the 30th anniversary of the founding of YMMC, the audience was invited to a birthday celebration following the concert with lavish goodies and birthday cake in the lobby and on the patio outside.
Music Director and Conductor Farkhad Khudyev introduced us to the first half of the program featuring the musicians of the Junior Youth Orchestra performing a wide selection of music of various styles and levels of difficulty. There was something for everybody — Maple Leaf Rag, Overture to the Barber of Seville (featuring young musicians from Orchestra in the Schools), a Chopin Waltz arranged for orchestra, Tunes by Leroy Anderson and an exciting Tango that made you want to get up and dance.
However, there was also some more serious music included on the first half of the program. Certainly one of these was YMMC Concerto Competition Winner, Courtney McDonald, who performed the Presto movement from Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto No. 6 in A Minor. McDonald, an 8th grade student at San Carlos School, and a pupil of violin teacher Stephanie Brown, impressed us with her technical mastery and stylistic awareness that brought out the best in the music and charmed us. Also, most impressive on the first half of the program was the stellar performance by the Brass and Woodwind Ensembles of the fourth movement of Dvorak’s Quartet No. 12. This was first class playing!
YMMC Competition Winner Daniel Hernandez
On the second half of the program featuring the YMMC Honors Orchestra and a terrific performance by the YMMC Chamber Players of Mozart’s Flute Quartet No. 3 in C Major, we had an opportunity to hear another winner of the YMMC Concerto Competition, Daniel Hernandez, performing Carl Maria von Weber’s Concertino for Clarinet in E-flat Major. Hernandez, a senior at Everett Alvarez High School in Salinas, has been a clarinet student of Erica Horn for the past several years. In addition to performing with YMMC’s Woodwind Ensemble and the Chamber Players, Hernandez has covered himself with glory with his participation in the CMEA-CCS Honor Band and the CBDA All-State Wind Symphony. He has also performed with the MPC Orchestra and with Monterey County Pops. In his playing of the von Weber, Hernandez exhibited natural gifts as a musician and performer as he navigated his way through the many difficult passages of Weber’s challenging work (and made it all look very easy, which, of course, it is not). Ultimately, beyond his impressive virtuosity, it was his elegant shaping of phrases and lovely control of expression and dynamics that moved the audience to a prolonged standing ovation after his performance.
One of the most successful works on the afternoon’s program was a performance of Samuel Barber’s Overture to “The School for Scandal.” This difficult score was brilliantly rendered with dazzling performances by the strings, winds, brass and percussion sections. Also outstanding was a performance of “Romance” (from musical illustrations “Snowstorm) by Georgy Vasilyevich Sviridov, a work that the YMMC Honors Orchestra had premiered five years previously. It had a lovely beginning with a plaintive melody for violin and piano, later joined in by woodwinds and finally the full orchestra. It was so beautiful we didn’t want it to end. The program ended with a rousing performance of the Polonaise from Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin.”
It was a satisfying and heartwarming concert. We felt full of pride for our young musicians and for our good fortune to have such an inspiring young conductor as Maestro Farkhad Khudyev. Amen!