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Music for Life International Presents "The Scheherazade Initiative" at Carnegie Hall
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Music for Life International Presents "The Scheherazade Initiative" at Carnegie Hall

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Music for Life International

The Scheherazade Initiative
A Concert Celebrating
The Resilience of Women & Girls in the Face of Violence

Benefit for UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women
(UN Trust Fund Web Page)

The Scheherazade Initiative Orchestra
George Mathew, Artistic Director and Conductor
Elmira Darvarova, Concertmaster and Solo Violin
Susanne Mentzer, Mezzo-soprano
Robert Langevin, Flute
Sarah Kay, Spoken Word, Poet

Opening Remarks: Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
Exec. Dir. and Under-Sec. – General of UN Women

Carnegie Hall
Isaac Stern Auditorium/Ronald O. Perelman Stage

Press: Dan Dutcher Public Relations

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 19. 2015

(Read the Story of Queen Scheherazade)

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937): Scheherazade (1903): "Trois poèmes pour Chant et Orchestre Asie".

Sarah Kay (b. 1988): “The Type”.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908): Scheherazade (Symphonic Suite, Op. 35, 1888), "The Sea and Sinbad's Ship", "The Kalendar Prince", "The Young Prince and the Young Princess", "Festival at Baghdad", "The Sea", "The Ship Breaks against a Cliff Surmounted by a Bronze Horseman".

Once in a blue moon, you go to a benefit concert at Carnegie Hall, expecting a pleasant, melodic experience, and leave in a state of awe and inspiration, replaying the music in your mind, over and over. This is what happened tonight when I went to Carnegie Hall for Music for Life’s “Scheherazade Initiative” concert, a worthy benefit for women and girls, who are victims of violence. Before the music began, there were a few riveting speeches by Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General of UN Women, and George Mathew, Artistic Director and Conductor of tonight’s concert. The vision of the UN Trust Fund is signified in the upbeat color of orange, a symbol of a brighter future for women and girls. The orchestral musicians were appropriately draped in orange scarves, and the Perelman Stage was lit in an orange glow. The Legendary Persian Queen, Scheherazade, known for her 1,000 nights of entrancing stories that won over the King, who would spare her life and marry her, is the inspiration for this concert, formed to help women and girls who have known danger.

What was most memorable, in addition to the resounding and swirling Rimsky-Korsakov composition, was Conductor, George Mathew’s impassioned comments to the audience, even relating news of recent abuses worldwide, and his educational introduction to the Rimsky-Korsakov score, with phrases for the entrance of the endangered Scheherazade. The masterful performances he drew, not only from the Orchestra composed of the crème de la crème of musicians from the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, New York Philharmonic, MET Orchestra, American Symphony Orchestra, and so many renowned music colleges, etc., but also from Elmira Darvarova, tonight’s Concertmaster and solo violinist, Susanne Mentzer, Mezzo-soprano, who sang the Ravel Scheherazade, and Robert Langevin, solo flautist. Throughout the evening the audience bonded in the moment, almost not believing that it was witnessing such greatness of musical artistry, one that would make Isaac Stern, for whom the auditorium is named, so proud. The Carnegie Hall acoustics became yet another featured star of the evening, as most of us would have gladly heard the concert all over again, start to finish, rather than leaving and relying on mental-replay of the themes.

In the Ravel, three poems, “Asia”, “The Enchanted Flute’, and “The Indifferent One’ were exquisitely sung by Ms. Mentzer, with glowing vocal strength and clarity, along with tonal beauty and astounding range. The audience was provided with the English translations, next to the French verses. Stirring strings, profound song, soaring woodwinds, and fanciful flute are just of a few of my in-the-moment notations. Ms. Mentzer has many operatic recordings in her discography, and she also serves as a writer and mentor to young singers. Mr. Langevin, flautist, a member of the Philharmonic Quintet of New York, is featured in recitals and master classes. Sarah Kay, poet, presented her spoken word in “The Type”, after intermission. This was a poem about self-pride and comfort, love, dreams, and trust in touch. Ms. Kay is a published author, educator, and co-director of Project VOICE.

In the Rimsky-Korsakov, in addition to the percussive, then poignant sensuality of the score, my notations indicate the introduction of timpani and brass to memorialize the early violence against Scheherazade. Yearning violin solos follow, by Ms. Darvarova, who happens to be one of the most outstanding solo violinists I have heard in quite some time. Maestro Mathew elicited crashing crescendos for stormy interludes, and I noted that the string section seemed like 1,000 violins, violas, cellos, and basses, they were each so dynamic. Emotion and tonal nuance were key to the Maestro, and the audience was gripped, thanks to the early introductions to the score by Mr. Mathew. What was so indicative of this Conductor’s professionalism was that he left the stage, after speaking to the audience, before and after intermission, to immediately re-enter as Conductor, greet his Concertmaster, step onto the podium, and create musical drama.

Kudos to George Mathew, kudos to the solo artists and guest musicians in the Scheherazade Initiative Orchestra, and kudos to Music for Life International for presenting this momentous event..

George Mathew, Conductor, and
The Scheherazade Initiative Orchestra
at Carnegie Hall
Courtesy of Chris Lee

George Mathew, Artistic Director and Conductor,
The Scheherazade Initiative Orchestra
Courtesy of Chris Lee

Susanne Mentzer, Mezzo-soprano,
with George Mathew and The Scheherazade Initiative Orchestra
Courtesy of Chris Lee

George Mathew and The Scheherazade Initiative Orchestra
Take a Bow in Carnegie Hall
Courtesy of Chris Lee

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at