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An Evening With the New York Youth Symphony

Soloist Grace Park

At Carnegie Hall on the afternoon of Sunday, March 13th, I had the pleasure of attending a concert, of music by American composers, presented by the remarkable players of the New York Youth Symphony under the confident direction of Michael Repper.

The event began with the conductor asking the audience to stand for a stirring performance of the Ukrainian national anthem, with music by Mykhailo Verbytsky, an eminent nineteenth-century composer. The program proper opened auspiciously with the world premiere of the arresting, beautifully orchestrated Ruach (And Other Delights), by contemporary composer Jonathan Cziner, commissioned by the New York Youth Symphony First Music Program.

The very talented soloist Grace Park then took the stage for an eloquent account of Samuel Barber’s magnificent Violin Concerto. The Allegro begins lyrically and gorgeously but moves in a more sprightly and also dramatic direction with the introduction of the countermelody by the clarinet. The Andante is at first more inward and meditative, then becomes more conflicted, but returns to more soulful inflections before ending softly, while the closing, more flamboyant and propulsive Presto proved to be a virtuosic tour de force. Each movement received applause.

After an intermission, Repper announced the the release of the ensemble’s debut album, which includes music by the underrated Florence Price, a couple of whose marvelous scores have been heard in Manhattan—including at this venue—in recent weeks. The second half of the concert was equally absorbing with a wonderful rendition of the now seldom heard but extraordinary “Afro-American” Symphony of William Grant Still. The opening Moderato, like the work as a whole, is jazzy, delightful and eclectic, while the Adagio is more restrained but also enchanting. The third movement, marked Animato, is more celebratory and ebullient, and the concluding Lento begins hauntingly but soon acquires a more cheerful character. As a gracious encore, the music director repeated the terrific third movement—in the closing measures inviting the audience to clap along—earning further appreciation from the fortunate attendees. I look forward to hearing these impressive musicians again before long.

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