Farkhad Khudyev’s YMM finale

By Monica Mendoza and Scott MacClelland

JUNIOR YOUTH ORCHESTRA

FOR YMM’S Junior Youth Orchestra, Farkhad Khudyev has always taken care to choose music that is fun to play but also a challenge for the young musicians. On this program, titled “Love Side Stories,” the group performed a light but effective arrangement of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” (final rehearsal pictured above) and works by JS Bach, Berlioz and Bernstein. Though they played shortened arrangements the young musicians performed with grace and attention to their conductor, and produced a quite mature sound. The only criticism regarding the arrangements themselves is that the Berlioz “March to the Scaffold” from Symphonie Fantastique was missing a key moment from the original. The movement is about the execution of a man who murdered his lover—a rather heavy subject for Mother’s Day. Toward the end of the piece, the haunting love theme from previous movements returns as a delicate clarinet solo, which is then cut off by a vicious orchestral guillotine stroke. Unfortunately this climactic moment was too understated, but the “March” itself was powerful and played with gusto.

This year, JYO had two young competition winners, Emily Kim and Elise Yoona Yi. The duo performed the opening movement of Bach’s Double Violin Concerto in D Minor. The young ladies, attired respectively in blue and red party dresses, exhibited good chemistry with each other and effectively communicated to keep the complex musical lines in clarity and focus.

Two chamber groups performed during this first half of the program: the brass ensemble and the woodwind ensemble. These YMM chamber ensembles perform many concerts independent of the orchestra, and are well-established in the area. The brass ensemble opened the concert with their rich blended sound in two contrasting pieces from the baroque (Giovanni Gabrieli) and modern (Alan Hovhaness) eras demonstrating their musical versatility. The woodwind group played the opening movement of Beethoven’s Octet in E-flat Major, a charming piece scored for pairs of oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and horns. Curiously, there were nine players in the ensemble but only seven music stands. (Changing chairs and music stands between pieces must have been a logistical headache.) The JYO portion of the program concluded most impressively with a medley of familiar tunes from West Side Story.

As a former YMM student myself, this concert didn’t feel like a goodbye. Rather it was a concert like the others, beautifully played and enthusiastically conducted. YMM was one of the biggest things in my life in high school, and Maestro Khudyev was always encouraging to me, even when I didn’t play my best. Before I believed I could study music in college he did, and for that I cannot express enough gratitude. He sees potential in all his students and that is one of the best things a youth orchestra conductor can do. MM

HONORS ORCHESTRA

CHOOSING PROGRAMS for the ‘feeding’ Junior Youth and the ‘receiving’ Honors Orchestras has always been tricky since the available capabilities change from year to year, and, indeed, within a year as student musicians gain greater skill. Khudyev has aimed and hit high in many of his Honors Orchestra programs, with a startling parade of regional premieres of major orchestral repertoire in their composers’ original versions and an exotic pageant of guest artists from Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia.

The performance by the Honors Orchestra musicians, following the intermission, did not shirk from challenges. Chamber Music Director Erica Horn fashioned an arrangement of the first movement from Schubert’s late, great String Quintet in C, D 956, adding a third violin to the original five players. She made no cuts resulting in a full 13-minute reading. While there were a few scratchy moments the musicians all displayed a clear grasp of the magnitude of the piece. More coaching would probably have produced a more unified expression overall, but under the circumstances that’s a minor quibble. These six young string players have plenty to be proud of.

Khudyev returned to the stage to join board president Dorothy Micheletti in announcing end-of-year awards to graduating seniors Daniel Regalado (horn), Adam Shapiro (trumpet), Kelly Wong (viola) and Amadeus Soria (bassoon). Volunteer of the Year award went to Peter Thorp, Carmel Music Society board chair, who has served YMM faithfully as stage manager. There were enough flowers, then and at the concert’s conclusion, to satisfy a wedding and even a wake, which, in the latter case, undoubtedly weighed on the hearts of Khudyev’s loyal fans.

Then, on the podium, Khudyev reprised a piece he had played at the start of his YMM tenure, the intermezzo from Pietro Mascagni’s opera Cavalleria Rusticana, a sentimental tear-jerker that made the bittersweet moment even more pointed.

Finally, and with great swagger and no little podium choreography, he took the orchestra through a vivacious symphonic suite drawn from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, one last visit to Love on this most memorable Mother’s Day afternoon.     

How Khudyev has turned the student musicians of Youth Music Monterey into a popular concert juggernaut that has regularly filled the Sunset Center auditorium with SRO audiences is both a tribute to his vision and charisma. Virtually all area classical presenters have long since signed on, from the Monterey Symphony—highly represented in Sunday’s audience—to Youth Orchestra Salinas and the beginning-level Orchestra in the Schools, with the Carmel Music Society and Hidden Valley Music Seminars in between. Motivated students from all area middle and high schools, both public and private, fill YMM’s ranks. A search for Khudyev’s replacement is already underway with contacts being made at major music schools and conservatories. With luck, a candidate will be found who can fill his shoes. SM