American Youth Philharmonic

Enjoyed my first experience of the American Youth Philharmonic on Sunday at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall & Arts Center in Alexandra:

American Youth Philharmonic Orchestras (AYPO) is a youth orchestra program that strives to provide excellent instruction to the next generation of music leaders and educators in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Students receive training from esteemed coaches and conductors during our Monday night rehearsals, perform in small ensembles for master classes in our Chamber Ensemble Program, and give back to the music community by participating in the Music Buddies Mentorship Program. … Consisting of five separate ensembles — the Debut Orchestra, String Ensemble, Concert Orchestra, Symphonic Orchestra, and Philharmonic — AYPO provides talented young people an opportunity to perform in one of the nation’s premier youth orchestra programs.

Tim Dixon conducted the program, with Peter Sirotin and Oleg Rylatko as guest artists on violin:

Rimsky-Korsakov: Russian Easter Overture, Op. 36
The Russian Easter Overture—Svetlyi prazdnik, or Bright Holiday in Russian—is a vivid first-hand account of Easter morning service—”not in a domestic chapel, but in a cathedral thronged with people from every walk of life, and with several priests conducting the cathedral service.” This is the first major work by a Russian composer to be based entirely on themes from the obikhod, a collection of canticles of the Orthodox Church—a controversial choice that so offended Tsar Alexander III that he forbid having the overture played in his presence. Rismky-Korsakov uses three original chants, two in the contemplative opening section (“Let God arise!” and “An angel wailed”), and a third (“Christ has risen from the dead”) appears “amid the trumpet blasts and the bell tolling, constituting also a triumphant coda,” as the composer put it.

J.S. Bach: Concerto for Two Violins in D major, BWV 1043
The origins of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto in D minor for Two Violins are shrouded in mystery. One of today’s leading Bach scholars, Christoph Wolff, believes that this work dates from Bach’s years in Leipzig, where he lived from 1723 until the end of his life. His is a minority opinion, however, and most musicologists support the idea that it is a product of Bach’s time in Cöthen, where he was employed immediately prior to his move to Leipzig. He was there from December 1717 through May 1723 as Kapellmeister (music director) at the court of the music-loving Prince Leopold of Anhalt. Because Prince Leopold adhered to the Reformed faith, his church services didn’t require elaborate music; that freed up his music director to spend most of his time writing secular instrumental pieces such as sonatas, concertos, and orchestral suites.

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 1 in F minor, Op. 10
Many composers fumble with numerous first attempts before finding their voice. But some artists succeed in planting their flag early on with astonishing confidence… Written between 1924 and 1925, while [Dmitri Shostakovich] was a student at the Leningrad Conservatory, the [First Symphony] had to wait until the following year before its premiere—but even by that point, the composer was still a teenager. … In the First Symphony we encounter a young artist proudly, exuberantly, even cockily giving free rein to his imagination’s wild but purposeful impulses. Despite the obvious digestion of external influences—Tchaikovsky, early Prokofiev, Stravinsky (Petrushka in particular), even Mahler—a striking sense of a new voice already begins to emerge.

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