By Ed Kliszus

Conductor Zachary Schwartzman led today’s performance of The Orchestra Now (TON) at Symphony Space in Manhattan, New York City. The orchestra draws gifted young musicians from national and international destinations who come to study, explore, enjoy and express rich musical offerings.

Tonight’s theme celebrating Hungarian composers from Kálmán to Bartok, explores a wide range of brilliant tonal music. Its variety and technical demands provide the means to display artistic virtuosity and the discrete tone colors available in a large ensemble of accomplished musicians.

The concert opened with the Gräfin Mariza Overture by Hungarian composer Emmerich Kálmán. This dramatic work exemplified the era’s style and demonstrated the orchestra’s ability to express its moods and contrasts.

Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra was the evening’s most challenging work. It is a true concerto for orchestra. The performance of this bracing, vigorous, and inventive work was polished and assertive. Of note were its exciting fugato elements, wonderfully articulated through each section. Exceptional cello and double bass work were noted in the exposed andante non troppo opening to the first movement. Mixed meters were seamlessly performed.

Conductor Zachary Schwartzman guides the orchestra with dramatic precision to ultimately express a kaleidoscope of coruscating musical colors. He delivers cues, tempo changes, metrical nuances, and expression with aplomb. He draws energy, excitement, and sheer musicality from the young artists. Balance is excellent, and we can hear soloists clearly throughout every work, whether winds, brass, strings, and percussion, including instruments that generally play over or blend with an orchestra accompaniment. Musical meaning gleaned is expressed with eloquence, finish, and virtuosity.

There were many soloists throughout the concert, clearly showing the care in selecting music that challenges and engages the entire ensemble. Special mention to frequent, well-played solos on flute, piccolo, oboe, French horn, timpani, harp, and snare drum, just to name a few. Impressive also was the clear distinction of parts in the strings. That is, sections played so well that each section of multiple individuals sounded like one. Well done indeed.

Excellent program notes were written by orchestra members, and several orchestra members stood and introduced themselves and the next work to the audience. These were personal, articulate, and well-informed, akin to Leonard Bernstein’s work with children’s concerts a generation or so ago.

This is an excellent orchestra and fine organization. The full house, supporters, and enthusiastic audience confirm that. Be sure to look ahead to future concerts.

Runtime with intermission 120 minutes.

The Orchestra Now

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