By Scott MacClelland
A SUNDAY MATINEE filled Sunset Center in Carmel with the young musicians of Youth Music Monterey and guests, proud families and many of YMM’s affiliates, not least the Monterey Symphony and Carmel Music Society. This was YMM’s season finale, featuring two soloists drawn from their ranks, an awards ceremony and, for the first time, an alumni award.
Music director Farkhad Khudyev’s “Dances of the World” spread the theme throughout the Junior Youth Orchestra, which in its opening number included members of South County Strings and the Orchestra in the Schools, and senior Honors Orchestra. In the first group, young violinist Hannah Shu, wearing bright red, played the opening movement from a Vivaldi violin concerto. The YMM Brass Ensemble of six players, reached back into the early Baroque for a canzona by Samuel Scheidt. The YMM Wind Ensemble cavorted through three of the witty Six Bagatelles by the contemporary, recently late, Hungarian György Ligeti. All this rearranging for furniture took a little time, but the results were worth it.
Then Khudyev and the orchestra finished the set with the mysterious Pe Loc from Bartók’s Romanian Dances, two Norwegian Dances by Grieg and one of Dvořák’s Slavonic dances.
Board president Dorothy Micheletti announced the choice of Alexander Janko (right) as YMM’s first alumni awards recipient. In his remarks, Janko, who has gone on to composing film scores, writing screenplays and, most recently, directing a major motion picture, pointed to a cellist and said he had begun his ‘career’ 35 years ago in that very same chair. He also spun a delightful homily to give the musicians and their families a perspective going forward, describing the process by which chaos and dissonance can resolve into harmony.
The Honors Orchestra portion opened with soloist Kim Kistler, in midnight blue, playing the first movement from Saint-Saëns’ Cello Concerto in A Minor. (Both Kistler and Shu had competed with their orchestral peers to win the opportunity.) What became obvious is that Kistler plays a better cello than her instrument itself rewards. Then, turning on a dime, she joined fellow string quartet members of the YMM Chamber Player for Joaquin Turina’s La Oración del Torero (Bullfighter’s Prayer), a hushed meditation over tremolo strings that sings and sighs.
Back on stage, Micheletti and Khudyev handed out awards, including cash—presumably for further education. Khudyev offered “bittersweet” thanks to those seniors who are graduating from YMM into life’s next adventure. He then conducted Hungarian Dance No. 2 by Brahms which didn’t quite catch fire, a rarity in this context. But fire came in the finale, the exotic Polovtsian (Turkmen) Dances from the opera Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin, a showpiece chock full of memorable melodies and rhythms.
Everyone hung around afterward for a big reception of cookies and other yummies in the lobby.