By Ed Kliszus

Under the direction of director and conductor David Bernard, the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony today presented two concerts featuring the music of Sergei Prokofiev at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music. The Symphony presented a special children’s program in the early afternoon concert.

Today’s concerts feature two works by Sergei Prokofiev, Peter and the Wolf Op. 67 (1936), and the Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major, Op. 100 (1944).

Violinist Michael Stringer and Immersed Writer Edward Kliszus

Violinist Michael Stringer and Immersed Writer Edward Kliszus

Maestro Bernard welcomed everyone and asked audience members to take a selfie with a musician next to whom they were sitting. I was located in front of the conductor in the midst of the string section and in front of the woodwinds, brass, and percussion, with the piano and harp to my right. Photos of the view from my seat illuminate this truly immersive musical experience.

What is an InsideOut concert experience? Imagine sitting in a symphony orchestra, surrounded by scores of accomplished musicians and diverse artists working as a unit to accurately articulate and express the creative product of a renowned, genius composer. To make this notion a reality, director and conductor David Bernard designed an exquisite, exceptional immersive InsideOut venue where audience members sit amongst the orchestra’s musicians during a live concert. Even better, Bernard held a specially crafted concert earlier today for families with children to sit within the orchestra and try musical instruments provided by the Lucy Moses School in what he called an Instrument Zoo. Children ages two and a half to ten participated today.

Bernard described the nationalism and social realism of Russian music and the sometimes complicated relationships between artists and Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet government. The Symphony No. 5 is not a 19th-century Romantic work crafted in the manner of Tchaikovsky or Anton Rubenstein; instead, it is an exciting, superb fusion of Prokofiev’s predilection for daring harmonies, rhythmic convolution, and comprehensible and emotionally meaningful melodies.

Looking to the left from a seat in the audience. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Looking to the left from a seat in the audience. Photo by Edward Kliszus

With the Symphony No. 5, today’s concert experience included a celebration of a historically significant masterpiece of musical brilliance and evocative power. The ensemble’s performance of the work was stirring and ably reflected the tempestuous times of its provenance.

Looking to the right from a seat in the audience. Photo by Edward Kliszus

The orchestra radiated the work’s dramatic, contrasting moods, flashes of penetrating power, reflective contemplation, and moments of faith and victory. We experienced somber, brooding atmospheres contrasting with soaring, lyrical, and introspective refrains. We marveled at virtuosic scherzandi of energy and wit leading to ultimate triumph and majestic determination.

Sitting among the orchestra members enabled one to watch and hear the musicians as they maintained their focus and intellect in pursuing artistic excellence. Conductor Maestro Bernard prudently and precisely projected each musical nuance with his facial expressions, hands, and body. Hearing the commensurate and remarkable musical interplay of the musicians, instruments, and orchestra sections (strings, brass, woodwinds, and percussion) was insightful and delightful. As the music progressed, sounds emerged from all directions, and the audience became fully immersed in a complex, ephemeral, artistic virtual paradigm.

Watching the conductor from a seat in the audience. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Watching the conductor from a seat in the audience. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Bravo, Maestro David Bernard and the Park Avenue Symphony Orchestra! Today’s immersive experiences were jewels in the musical world of New York. Children and adults alike were inspired, informed, and uplifted.

Running time that included a reception to meet the artists was about 150 minutes.

Park Avenue Chamber Symphony David Bernard, Music Director, and Conductor 875 5th Ave, New York, NY 10065 (917) 740-7227

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Today’s performances occurred at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, 450 West 37th Street, between 9th and 10th Avenues.

Readers may also enjoy our reviews of The American Classical Orchestra presents a Romantic Fantasy, Venice City of Light at St. John the Divine, and The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony performs Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.