Well, that was our first mistake.
First of all, it’s not a huge orchestra. We counted 19 musicians plus the
director and there are no brass instruments or woodwinds. It’s all strings
(except for the timpani). All right, so strings mean that the music will
be a little weak in volume, limited in repertoire and possibly a little
squeaky now and then, depending on the musical abilities of the players.
We figured it would sound something like the college orchestra where we
spend a few years fiddling around in the 2nd violin section.
That was our second mistake!
The repertoire starts out with
music from the year circa 1720 when J.S. Bach is said to have written the
Prelude for Partita for Violin Number 3 in E Major. The first thing you
notice is how tight the violin section is. The performance is pristine and
crisp, with sparkling solos by Concertmistress Limor Toren-Immermann, and
that made us start to believe that maybe these guys had something going
Then the orchestra jumps forward
290 years for an impeccable rendition of Karl Jenkins’ 1993 Concerto
Grosso Palladio, which by no small coincidence was written for string
orchestra. Again, the execution was flawless. The piece opens with sharp
jagged staccato strokes, then calls for powerful crescendos, while the
second movement demands controlled diminuendos. The orchestra delivered on
all counts as the music soared around the huge church interior wrapping
itself around every wall and aisle as if it were the most delicately
engineered acoustic chamber. Who knew it could sound this good in a
The knockout piece was soon to
follow. It was the world premiere of the Andante Dolente & Schertzo for
Two Cellos and String Orchestra by Andrey Rubtsov. If you want
contemporary, this is it! Born in 1982, Rubstov’s innovative
music has been performed in Russia, China, Spain, Morocco, England,
Venezuela, USA and many other world capitals. Ruslan Biryukov, word class
cellist and founder of the Glendale Philharmonic, and Maksim Velichkin,
principal Cellist perform the piece, which according to Biryukov was
updated as recently as two weeks ago.
We said they performed the piece
– that is not entirely correct. They seem to have devoured this piece –
digested every note, every rest, every sharp and flat and then exploded it
out through their fingers into their instruments. This piece is not music
– it’s a microcosm of life. There were conversations between the two
cellos, where Ruslan would play a theme and Maksim would respond – where a
note would drift from Maksim’s cello, later to be picked up by Ruslan.
Some notes cry – others sigh. Some measures whimper and some scream. Then
there are flourishes that celebrate life and rants that seem to curse it
and as the finale nears, you can feel the heartbeats of the music – you
can hear the blood rush, you can sense the explosion and when the final
note bursts you know you have been taken to another dimension that can
only be found within the lines of the musical staff. To say the
performance was incredible would not do it justice.
How, one asks, can they follow
this after intermission? There’s no way they can do it!
You guessed it. That was our
The answer came in a soft,
beautiful rendition by soprano Marine Abrahamyan-Abdasho singing the Aria
by Arno Babadjanian. The subdued strings provided a wonderful underpinning
to the soaring voice, which undulated much like a ribbon caught in a
breeze, sometimes rising, sometimes dipping but always shimmering and
warm. The piece is reminiscent of Villalobos’ Bachianas Brazilerias Number
5, which also has a soprano singing the theme. If there is one complaint
here it is only that the piece was far too short and we would have liked
to hear more from Ms. Abrahamyan-Abdasho. But there’ll be other concerts
and hopefully she will be a part of them.
The finale, also a contemporary
piece by Edward Mirzoyan, was a fitting climax to an evening of superb
music. This Symphony for String Orchestra and Timpani maximizes the power
of the lower registers in the cello and bass and the timpani at times
becomes a solo instrument, pounding its theme and driving the music with
sometimes frenetic pace. The Adagio is the most poignant of the movements,
but the fourth movement, the Allegro vivo lives up to the “allegro” with
bright, fast, sometimes saw like strokes from the violins. It was an
excellent choice for closing an evening that was full of surprises and
great musical moments.
But evenings like these don’t
happen by themselves. The musicians are the key to the success and this
group, though few in number, is great in talent, ability and heart. We
were especially impressed by Laura Pearson, the young lady who is the
principal viola. Some people live to play music, but in her case we think
the music plays her. Though she had just a few instances of solo or duet
parts with the first violin, every measure she played was echoed by her
face. Her bright eyes and body movements gave her away – you could tell
that the notes did not come from the finger board - they came from
somewhere deep inside and she shares them shamelessly with the world.
There’s a name for people like her. They are called – “Musicians”.
So that brings us to the person
who is the guiding force of the music. Maestro Mikael Avetisyan, Artistic
Director and Principal Conductor is also among those who has music flowing
in his veins. His taut direction and guidance has shaped together an
ensemble that can stand side by side with the best. One can only imagine
what rehearsals were like under this man. It’s evident that he is an
exacting task master and also a gentle mentor, bringing out the best that
every musician has to offer. Maestro Avetisyan’s impressive credentials
and his evident empathy for this project make him the perfect choice to
lead the orchestra in the future.
This project could not have taken
place without the efforts of Ruslan Biryukov, Master cellist and now
apparently an impresario. Biryukov engineered the existence of this
orchestra, seeking sponsorships, donations, supporters and contributors
including the support of Reverend Charles L. Updike, Senior Pastor of the
First Baptist Church of Glendale and home (for now) of this grand
experiment called the Glendale Philharmonic Orchestra.
After all this, we can only close
with a comment heard at the end of the concert as people exited. One woman
told her companion – “That was absolutely glorious!”
Not much can be added to that
comment, other than to say we completely agree!
There will be another concert on February 6, 2010
at the First Baptist Church, located at 509 North Louise Street in
Glendale. Tickets can be purchased by calling (323)663-3601 or on-line at
or at www.celloart.com .
Musicians on GPO’s roster include:
Violin I: Limor Toren (of Irvine) Concertmistress, Armen Mangasaryan (of
Glendale) and Edgar Sandoval (of West Hollywood); Violin II: Haovhannes
Meghrikyan (of Granada Hills), Principal II Violinist, Marisa McLeod (of
Orange County), Ruzanna Sargsyan (of Hollywood) and Katerina Kolesnik (of
Los Angeles); Viola: Andrew Dunkles (of Long Beach) Principal Violist,
Kate Vincent (of Los Angeles) and Laura Pearson (of Los Angeles); Cello: Maksim
Velichkin (of Silverlake) Principal Cellist, August Lee (of Beverly Hills)
and Patricia Ryan (of San Diego); and Timpani: Arthur Yeghikyan (of
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