Anne Chandra & Chung-Yon Hong Close the Season
The final performance for the 2014-2015 Sarasota Music Club professional musician performances, held on March 20, featured two fantastic violinists.
I was still licking the warm beignets' powdered sugar from my fingers as the program began. I had been anticipating this concert ever since it was announced. One of my favorite violinists to watch, Anne Chandra, is probably the most animated player in the Sarasota Orchestra string section, moving her head and whole body in choreography perfectly matched to the intensity of the music. A Balanchine of the violin! Now I would get to hear her as well. Her partner for this program, Chung-Yon Hong, who is much more subdued in movement, is every bit as accomplished a violinist. The two of them were having as much fun as the audience, giggling and grimacing as they performed with style and panache a variety of challenging music spanning four centuries.
The most charming piece on the program was by Jeremy Cohen, based on the childhood chant “nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyaaaa-nyaaa”. (If you imagine a nine-year-old pointing a finger at another nine-year-old and saying, “Bobby's got a g-i-r-rrl-friend, Bobby's got a g-i-r-rrl-friend” – you've got the picture.) Cohen is a classically-trained (student of Itzak Perlman) jazz violinist, mostly working on the West Coast but also teaching at Berklee School of Music in Boston. This well-crafted piece for two violins cleverly works the chant tune in and out, in excellent counterpoint, causing all of us in the audience to chuckle in recognition again and again. Another piece by Cohen was “Tango Eight,” enticing enough to make us wish to hear the first seven also.
The two women, who both joined the Sarasota Orchestra in 2002, are representative of the virtuosic level of playing now permeating that group. Their sound was so well-matched that I wondered if their violins and bows were by the same makers. As the melody passed back and forth in the various pieces, if you closed your eyes, you could not tell who was playing which part. That helps explain the homogeneity of sound within our excellent orchestra. It also demonstrates the high quality of the schools of music and conservatories across this country. Only a few decades ago there were only a handful of first-rate American schools – beyond Juilliard, Curtis and Oberlin, it was pretty bleak. Today, nearly every state has at least one well-respected institution. The result is a plethora of highly skilled young musicians, many of whom cannot find an orchestra to play in and must do something else to earn a living.
When I was a boy listening to the Philharmonic Sunday afternoon broadcasts or Toscanini's NBC Orchestra, the static of pre-FM broadcast technology prevented my hearing the full tonal warmth, but I could still hear the level of precision and intonation of those top-line orchestras, most of whose players, the best in the world at that time, were trained in Europe. Today, I am convinced that our Sarasota Orchestra eclipses the best of those; such is the new standard of today's performers. And they come from American schools. Music education is alive and well in this country!
We had the chance to hear two of our finest, up close and informal, with beignets still caressing our taste buds. What a musical, and culinary, treat!
Many thanks to Sarasota Music Club member Bob Barr for the image.