YMMC’s Winter Concert yesterday for a capacity audience at Sunset Center was a delight that just kept getting better as the afternoon progressed. Danko Druško, making his second appearance as Music Director and Conductor, was very much in command as he led the young musicians through ambitious repertoire performed by the YMMC Youth and Honors Orchestras. The Youth Orchestra bravely tackled challenging works by Verdi, Wagner and Sibelius, and managed to blow us away with a fun piece, Chamambo, by Manuel Artés. This piece, with YOSAL students joining the Youth Orchestra, charmed us with its Latino rhythms and infectious percussion effects.
Every time I attend a YMMC concert I am impressed by the high standards these young musicians attain and also by the parental, teacher and donor support that makes it all possible. That Danko Druško is a miracle worker was even more apparent in the second half of the afternoon’s program. The opening moments of the third movement of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 was absolutely magical. The beautiful, totally controlled pianissimo string sounds made the Honors Orchestra sound like the Boston Symphony or the Philadelphia Orchestra. This was no accident. Druško must have been very persistent during rehearsals in his goal to help the strings play so softly they were borderline inaudible, yet their quiet, sensuous sound had substance and could be heard perfectly as far away as the balcony where we were seated. Wow!
But there was more to come. Performing with the Honors Orchestra after intermission, violinist Lance Yang Bauer, winner of the YMMC Concerto Competition, performed the Butterfly Lovers’ Violin Concerto by CHEN Gang and HE Zhanhao. This is an attractive work that Drusko informed us from the stage is extremely well known and popular in China. Well, let’s welcome it to our shores, because it deserves another hearing, and soon. Bauer performed it with artistic mastery of a very high order. Technically and musically, he made the work seem logical and inevitable. The orchestration in this concerto was also quite masterful and showed off the Honors Orchestra to its best advantage. Wow, once again!
Bauer received a well-deserved standing ovation. Before Bauer’s performance YMMC President Dorothy Micheletti, announced to the audience that the concert we were hearing was being dedicated to the memory of the recently deceased Hal Walton, husband of Bauer’s violin teacher Rochelle Walton, who was present during this concert.
For a slam bang ending, Druško led the musicians of the Honors Orchestra in a charming and exciting performance of Tchaikovsky’s Suite from Swan Lake. No matter how many times you may have heard Swan Lake previously, it still has the ability to thrill us, and so it did on this occasion.
Bravo to YMMC, all the young musicians, and especially to its new Music Director and Conductor, Danko Druško.