Youth Music Monterey County (YMMC) Presents Eclectic Delight

Cello Soloist Katrina Yang Bauer & Conductor Farkhad Khudyev

On a beautiful and warm Sunday afternoon, November 4, Sunset Center was filled to capacity with enthusiastic friends and supporters of YMMC, which is a 501c3 organization that has provided high-caliber music education and ensemble-playing opportunities for young people throughout Monterey County for many years. Music Director and Conductor Farkhad Khudyev led YMMC’s Junior Youth and Honors Orchestras in this special 30th anniversary event, which lived up to the organization’s goal of enriching the lives of students and their communities and facilitating greater appreciation of music through preparing and sharing superior music performances. 

Approximately 40 members of the Junior Youth Orchestra came on stage to perform works by Berlioz, Garth, Stravinsky and Dvorak, featuring concerto competition winner and cellist Katrina Yang Bauer. From the first moment of Berlioz’ Hungarian March it was clear that the efforts of this generous community, whose donations make such opportunities possible for the children, were amply rewarded. The young performers played well beyond their years, demonstrating highly responsive and sensitive skill under Maestro Khudyev’s clear direction. The players responded with excellent intonation, timing and enthusiasm.

Katrina Yang Bauer, this year’s YMMC competition winner, has given all of us a hopeful glimpse into the future of her generation. She is a highly talented youth, who at the age of 12 has produced outstanding results in both piano and cello under the dedicated and masterful instruction of teachers Renée Bronson (piano) and Aleksey Klyushnick (cello). Ms. Bauer performed John Garth’s Cello Concerto in B-flat Major. She was confidently focused and accurate throughout her performance, and quite attentive to the interplay with the orchestra and conductor. There was much more than a musical performance evident in her stage presence. Katrina Yang Bauer is a born leader who demonstrates an exemplary attitude of success in life. She won the support of the orchestra as well, as the players were careful to modulate their dynamics to work with their soloist while projecting to the large hall. This was a great opportunity for all the youth to step onto the big stage together, and from there, into a bright future! Katrina’s performance was outstanding and she was rewarded with a well-deserved standing ovation.

Ms. Bauer rejoined the orchestra, which proceeded to perform Stravinsky’s Berceuse and Finale from the Firebird Suite and Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance Op. 46. During the Stravinsky, the winds played a special role in the opening, with a mysterious melody veiled behind the strings. A highly artistic and beautiful sound developed from these young musicians who clearly delivered, in combination, an artistic result far beyond their years. Clearly Maestro Khudiyev’s love for teaching, conducting and young people are what made such an extraordinary result possible. Even he was clearly moved and stunned by what these young people produced, and was later sure to thank all the teachers, parents, staff and supporters for creating an environment that so greatly enriches the lives of the children who enjoyed this rare opportunity. Special and well deserved mention went to Hidden Valley Seminars and Peter Meckel for generously providing a supportive and beautiful environment for the children all these years.

During Dvorak’s sweet dance form, the players and audience were transported into a noble and grand time and place. The students were successful in their endeavor to connect with each other, previous generations, and eastern European culture and history. While this collection of players is considered distinct from the Honors Orchestra, they often sounded as though they deserved that appellation as well.

The Honors Orchestra took the stage next, beginning with a performance of Chadwick’s Jubilee from Symphonic Sketches. They skillfully navigated through the challenges in timing, counterpoint, dynamic contrasts and mood shifts in the thematic material, producing a richly expressive and soulful performance.

The final work on the program was the world premiere of Abuzar Manafzade’s Concerto for Balaban, Naghara, Piano and Symphonic Orchestra. This is a work of Azerbaijani origin featuring ancient instruments of that region (the balaban, which is a small wind instrument resembling a flute, and the naghara, which is a set of drums). This performance was made possible through a cultural exchange championed by Nancy Selfridge and Farkhad Khudyev, who went to great lengths to arrange for the musicians to visit this country. Later, at the YMMC Angel Reception, representatives of the city governments of Monterey and Salinas presented representatives of the Azerbaijan Consulate with words of welcome and certificates acknowledging their country’s 100th anniversary since it declared independence.  This was music written in an oriental tradition, and was at times cinematic in style and evocative of high drama and adventure, and at other times (as acknowledged by several audience members whom I later interviewed) went into pop and jazz styles. The orchestra members had the opportunity to perform with several professional musicians, and successfully blended together with the improvisations of the Azerbaijani soloists, who were Nijat Masimov (balaban), Natig Shirinov (naghara) and Abuzar Manafzade (piano). The performance was in 3 dramatic movements, complete with improvisatory solos from each of the guest artists. The students of the YMMC Honors Orchestra did an amazing job in adjusting to the unusual scale structures, which were related to harmonic minor with added chromatic flourishes. When the performance concluded, all participants on stage were greeted with a long-lasting ovation and presented with numerous bouquets of flowers. The 3 soloists returned to the stage to play an encore they called Atashka. 

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