New York Music Daily

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Tag: Dong-hyun Kim

The Queensboro Symphony Orchestra Play a Refreshingly New Take on Old Sounds

In concert, at least, symphonic music varies much more than you might think, considering how specific the instructions are from composer to conductor and musicians. Then again, that difference of interpretation is what makes orchestral concerts so much fun (and sometimes, so painfully disappointing) to be immersed in. Last night the up-and-coming Queensboro Symphony Orchestra offered two highly individualistic, richly successful takes on a couple of popular works from the standard repertoire, as well as a smooth run-through of another.

That one was Mozart’s Overture to the Marriage of Figaro. “Here’s what’s gonna happen,” says Mozart. “This will give you a basic idea of what to expect. This isn’t heavy, it’s upbeat and fun and sometimes funny, and you’re going to be entertained. And I’m gonna keep the musicians on their toes, make it conversational, so they’re entertained too.” And that’s how this ensemble played it.

Next on the bill was an intensely dynamic take of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D Minor. Conductor Dong Hyun Kim led the orchestra very calmly and precisely out of the sub-basement, setting the thermostat very low so that when the stormy ambience finally kicked in during the second movement, the contrast packed all the more wallop. Violin soloist Yosub Kim delivered frenetic, spectacularly shivery flights against a slowly pulsing, rather ominous backdrop for much of the piece, another study in contrasts that drew spontaneous applause from the crowd between every movement. When the orchestra finally cut loose in a series of triumphantly foreboding waves at the very end, a battering ram in a velvet glove, it made for a mighty payoff.

The concert ended with a similarly individualistic version of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. Listen to just about any recording of the third movement, and the highest strings’ ambience in the early going will barely be present. At this concert, they were very loud, completely transforming the music with a whole new level of suspense. Beethoven is foreshadowing here: that this conductor caught that, where so many others don’t, wasn’t the only exciting development in full effect at this concert. There were other contrasts, notably in the high winds and brass, that added considerable color, especially throughout the symphony’s ebullient first movement.

The abrupt transition from major to minor toward the end of that movement was vividly reflected in the somber second; the ending was everything it’s known for, Beethoven at his most Beethovenesque. It’s basically a very long outro, one false ending after another, the composer going for laughs at every juncture, teasing the conductor, the musicians and most of all you. What a fun way to end a broodingly overcast Sunday night.

The Queensboro Symphony Orchestra makes a move outside their usual digs for a special young people’s concert of vocal music and concertos by Haydn, Mozart and others at St. Ann’s Church, 58-02 146th St. in Flushing this coming Sunday, December 13 at 7 PM. If you don’t live in the neighborhood, it’s a comfortable 25-minute walk from the Main St. 7 train (last stop); go straight up Main and continue through this quiet residential area to 58th Ave and make a left, then walk three blocks. You can also take the Main St. bus right from the subway.

A Towering, Exhilarating World Premiere and a Rare Symphonic Gem at This Fall’s First Queensboro Symphony Orchestra Concert

If there was any proof that ordinary New Yorkers, especially those who might not be found at Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall that often, are hungry for new orchestral music, Sunday night’s concert on an otherwise ordinary residential block in Flushing was living proof. The Queensboro Symphony Orchestra‘s previous concert, a benefit for Nepal earthquake relief, drew a crowd of at least five hundred people. This particular evening, the orchestra picked up where they left off with a robust, brass-fueled take of Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmila Overture. But the two pieces de resistance were both by contemporary composers.

A rarely performed version of James Cohn’s Symphony No. 4 was the first. Conductor Dong-hyun Kim led the ensemble seamlessly through its diverse and erudite blend of idioms, its broodingly nebulous first movement and angst-driven, blustering finale, an evocation of the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call this Cohn’s 1812 Overture, although it ends on a somber and distinctly unresolved note. Allusive, wounded, grey-sky cinematics gave way to anxiously tricky metrics and a burst of sudden certainty when all of a sudden the inevitable conclusion presented itself. Cohn is a new discovery for this blog, perhaps better known in Europe than he is here (the Slovak Radio Symphony recently recorded three of his symphonies). His music would enrich a much greater audience.

The concert hit a towering, exhilarating, majestic peak with the world premiere of the symphonic version of Paul Joseph‘s King of the Mask. Originally a piano suite for ballet, the composer takes his inspiration and the work’s title from the series of paintings by visual artist Roman Valdes. Perhaps due to Valdex’ background in puppetmaking, there’s a carnivalesque quality to his work, drawing on 60s psychedelia as much as impressionism, Joseph’s music reflecting the latter a lot more than the former. This magnum opus turned out to be both Joseph’s Pictures at an Exhibition and his Scheherezade, a major work in the neoromantic repertoire that will be performed widely once conductors discover it. It’s a twenty-part series of variations on several cinematic themes. Among them: a heroic overture worthy of Tschaikovsky or Cesar Franck, both crushing and poignant; a balmy, summery pastorale; bitterly moody, Ravel-esque rainscapes; monster-on-the-prowl menace; neblous cloudscapes that grew stormy and ominous; and a lushly swirling climactic theme that will probably get plenty of movie soundtrack action in the years to come. Joseph’s orchestration filled the hall from the murkiest registers of the basses to the very top end of the violins and winds. Joseph accompanied the orchestra on electric keyboard, essentially performing the role of a glockenspiel.

And the spectacle didn’t stop with the music; surprises from dancers and a cameo for singers lept from the far corners of the hall when least expected, to max out the mystery. Joseph, who is the orchestra’s composer in residence, implored the crowd to be still until the suite was over – this ensemble being a rapidly emerging borough institution, this audience knows Joseph’s work and likes it. They finally rewarded the performance with an explosive series of standing ovations. This enterprising and exciting new orchestra’s next performance is on October 25 at 7 PM with a program TBA at at Mary’s Nativity Church, 46-02 Parsons Blvd. (at Holly Ave.) in Flushing. Take the 7 train to Main St. (the last stop) and transfer to the Q27 bus or take a leisurely ten-minute walk to the church through a quiet residential neighborhood. Suggestion donation is $20.

NYC Classical Sensation the Queensboro Symphony Orchestra Pitches In for Nepal

What do you do when you’ve suddenly created the fastest-growing classical music scene in New York? You stage a benefit concert for Nepalese earthquake relief. All proceeds from the exciting new Queensboro Symphony Orchestra’s May 31, 7 PM NY Concert for Nepal will go to Catholic Relief Services and Korea Times-led projects to aid the survivors. Maestro Dong-hyun Kim will lead the orchestra in performances of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 3 (featuring Peter DelGrosso) and the Nepali national anthem arranged by Paul Joseph.

When five hundred people turn out on a gloomy, overcast work night in the middle of nowhere in Queens (an exaggeration – the venue is a brief, barely ten minute walk from the Flushing stop at the end of the 7 line), you know something’s up. The buzz at the reception after the orchestra’s richly dynamic, wildly applauded concert last month was that the word is out: musicians really like playing for Kim. A thoughtful, insightful individual with an unassuming gravitas but also an infectious, dry wit, he led the orchestra with meticulous attention to both detail and emotion.

This ensemble is on the young side and doesn’t have a lot of “name” players, at least in the US, but is stocked with talent. Trumpeter Chulho Kim drew more than one spontaneous ovation from the crowd with his seemingly effortless, liquid command of the long solo and several other passages in Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto. The orchestra’s brass section shone brightly throughout a surprisingly nuanced if aptly festive take of Handel’s Royal Fireworks Music. And the conductor made a steady, Teutonic celebration out of Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, employing a familiar trope, setting the floor very low so as to max out the headroom on a long upward climb.

But the piece de resistance was the world premiere of Kathryn’s Mirror by Paul Joseph. The colorful impresario – who is also the orchestra’s composer-in-residence, more or less – admitted to the crowd beforehand that he’d been given a mere three weeks to orchestrate the suite, but pulled it off with aplomb. It turned out to be a sweeping neoromantic theme and variations that would make a dynamite film score for a bittersweetly suspenseful World War II-era drama. Watch it on youtube and see for yourself: there’s cinematic John Williams angst and grandeur but also neatly intricate Carl Nielsen-style orchestration and a pensively lush central theme that Antonin Dvorak could easily have written. And the ensemble took care to emphasize the emotional tug-of-war as its aching introductory waltz shifted shape. Soloists were strong: a looming horn figure early on, poignant strings as the first part hit a crescendo, growing in colorful swirls as the mood lifted a bit. A recurrent and brilliantly crystalline clarinet theme, tense dips and epic swells propelled the concluding segments. It predicts good things for this ambitious composer and an ensemble that’s growing by leaps and bounds. The May 31 concert is at 7 PM at Mary’s Nativity Church, 46-02 Parsons Blvd. at Holly Ave. in Flushing. If you felt like it, you could take a bus from Main Street (the bus stops right outside the church), but it’s probably faster and easier just to walk from the train.