To the editor:
The weekend of Oct. 19-20 was an absolute feast for Riverdale classical music lovers. Within 26 hours, we were treated to three concerts of the highest quality at, or very close to, home.
On Saturday afternoon, there was the Washington Heights Chamber Orchestra, “the little orchestra that can,” a group of 20 to 30 excellent, mostly young, players under the expert direction of Chris Whittaker.
Their performance of Brahms’ “Symphony No. 4” more than made up in clarity and responsiveness for whatever it may have lacked in pure man- (and woman-) power.
A lovely guitar concerto by Villa-Lobos, and a colorful work by Angelica Negron, “What Keeps Me Awake,” rounded out the program.
After time for a brief dinner, it was over to our own Christ Church for the Riverdale Sinfonietta, directed by Mark Mandarano, who founded this group 10 years ago. Their 10 solo players — all seasoned pros — gave us Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” not in the familiar Ravel version (which would have called for 10 times as many instruments), but in a new arrangement by Dutch composer Alexander van Eerdewijk.
It sounded very familiar at times, less so at others. But at all times, brilliantly performed.
Finally, on Sunday afternoon at the Lovinger Theater at Lehman College, the Orchestra of the Bronx gave us a little Ravel, the familiar Pavane, followed by the Haydn “Clock” symphony and Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 5” called “The Emperor” (although not by Beethoven).
Soloist Shawn Chang and conductor Michael Spierman emphasized the melodic, lyrical aspect of the work, much to its benefit. It was a beautiful performance, especially the second, slow movement.
Obviously, such a concentration of quality music in our neighborhood is rare, and one might argue that it would have been better if more evenly distributed over the month.
But I’m not complaining. For one glorious weekend, Riverdale was a classical music hub. And on the next Saturday afternoon, we were able to go back to Christ Church Riverdale for Classical Café and the Bach Coffee Cantata.
Who needs Carnegie Hall?