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New York Philharmonic Ensembles Present Martinu, Sichel, Dvorak, and Beethoven at Merkin Hall
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New York Philharmonic Ensembles Present Martinu, Sichel, Dvorak, and Beethoven at Merkin Hall

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New York Philharmonic Ensembles

Martinů / Sichel / Dvořák / Beethoven

Merkin Concert Hall
(Merkin Hall Website)
Press: Joan Jastrebski / Kristy Godette

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 17, 2016

Program (Guests*):

Duo No. 1 for Violin and Cello, J. 157 (1927): Composed by Martinů (1890-1959), Joo Young Oh, violin; Alexei Yupanqui Gonzales, cello.

Fishbowl Diaries (2013): Composed by John Sichel (b. 1959): Vladimir Tsypin, violin; Blake Hinson, bass; John A. Sichel*, narrator.

Piano Trio in E minor, Op. 90, Dumky (1890-91): Composed by Dvořák (1841-1904), Anna Rabinova, violin; Patrick Lee, cello; Wei-Yi Yang*, piano.

Quintet for Piano and Winds in E-flat major, Op. 16 (1796): Composed by Beethoven (1770-1827), Sherry Sylar, oboe; Pascual Martínez Forteza, clarinet; Kim Laskowski, bassoon; R. Allen Spanjer, horn; Yi-Fang Huang*, piano.

The New York Philharmonic has created a fine opportunity for current and future audiences to have a close-up view of the orchestra’s seasoned musicians. Today’s Sunday afternoon concert brought out ten of the Philharmonic’s finest, plus guest artists, and those in attendance, many of whom might be aspiring to join orchestras around the globe, were vocally enthralled. Of course, many longtime Philharmonic fans were in the audience, as well. Prior to each of the four musical works, one musician warmly introduced the piece. The Martinů “Duo for Violin and Cello” was introduced by Alexei Yupanqui Gonzales, cellist, who informed the audience that the Czech born composer created this piece in Paris. The violin and cello themes combined and contrasted in searing tones. The music was at once introspective and mournful. The cello solo was richly layered, with the violin often bucolic and yearning, in homage to the composer’s home country. The Duo’s finale was vibrant, with violinist, Joo Young Oh and Mr. Gonzales adding intertwining drama and fervor. Mr. Oh’s feverish violin was stunning.

John Sichel introduced his own “Fishbowl Diaries”, a unique composition, narrated by this composer. The duo string accompaniment, by Vladimir Tsypin, on violin, and Blake Hinson, on bass, consisted of brief, then expansive, tonal enhancements, contemporary and staccato, to maximize the theatricality of Mr. Sichel’s narration. The composition presents four stories, witty and original, “Heather from Card Member Services”, “Juliet of the Rats”, and “Dolphin Man: Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha”. The first story, about a man who fantasizes about Heather, who calls him daily, with credit card support, was endearing, an audience favorite. The Juliet narrative was a bit more elusive, as was the third, about Dolphin Man. Perhaps in a tighter performance space the second and third stories may have had more draw, but the piece was worth it for the early, humble humor. Mr. Sichel worked the crowd, with pregnant pauses and gestural moods. The string themes were atonal, ambient effects, well conceived.

Anna Rabinova, violinist, introduced Dvořák’s “Dumky” Piano Trio, informing the audience that “Dumky” refers to fleeting thoughts. Six “fleeting thoughts” are musically arranged by the composer in varying tempos, tones, and themes. Here, the audience was most enthused, with the introductory “thought” presenting swirling piano trills and wild violin, like a fancy ball with flowing champagne, evocative of café society. Each of the composer’s six “movements” or “thoughts” includes two notated, musical instructions, with combinations of allegro, andante, vivace, lento, and adagio. The “Dumky” proceeds to unfold with a mournful cello, as each sequential, musical “thought” opens in stark contrast to the previous finale. I heard Czech, folkloric dances in festive melodies, as well as prolonged, sentimental passages. Ms. Rabinova, on violin, Patrick Lee, on cello, and Wei-Yi Yang, on piano, were a sensational trio of accomplished artists, each providing mesmerizing solos with dervish, driven energy.

After intermission, a quintet of musicians took the stage, with bassoonist, Kim Laskowski introducing Beethoven’s “Quintet for Piano and Winds”. This was a fascinating work, with Sherry Sylar on oboe, Pascual Martínez Forteza on clarinet, R. Allen Spanjer on horn, Yi-Fang Huang on piano, and Ms. Laskowski on bassoon. At Merkin, the audience was able to delineate the exact tones of oboe, bassoon, clarinet, and horn, up close, in ways that are impossible in the enormous Geffen Hall, the Philharmonic’s home. Each instrument took on a life of its own. Compared to the previous four pieces, the “Quintet” was far more structured, with three standard movements, “Grave - Allegro ma non troppo”, “Andante cantabile”, and “Rondo: Allegro ma non troppo”. Yet, the performance was frolicsome, pulsating, and vivacious. Ms. Huang, on piano, added winding, spellbinding musicality to the windy themes. The deeper bassoon, the scintillating clarinet, the soulful oboe, and the strong horn were all grandly showcased in spotlighted solos and tonal fusion. Kudos to all.

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