September 1, 2014

Topanga Symphony 30th Season Opening Concert with Family and Favorites

 

PHOTO BY TOM MITCHELL

Topanga Symphony 30th Season Opening Concert with Family and Favorites

Topanga Symphony music director and conductor, Jerome Kessler, with his daughters, (l) Jennifer Kessler, French horn, and (r) Amy Neyer, flute and piccolo, both of whom were featured soloists in the community concert on Aug. 26. This year marks the 30th season that Maestro Kessler has led the Topanga Symphony.

In the summer on 1982 the very first Topanga Symphony concert graced the stage of the Community House with Music Director and Conductor Jerome Kessler leading the classical musicians into a journey that continues thirty years later.

From Beethoven to original contemporary works, Kessler has always chosen pieces for the three concerts a year that include variety and a clear knowledge of what the classical music lover wants to hear. The repertoire chosen for the first concert of the 30th season brought Kessler’s own daughters, Jennifer and Amy, as soloists. Then he filled in the concert with some more of his, the musicians’, and the audience’s favorite pieces.

The concert began with everyone singing “Happy Birthday” to maestro Kessler to celebrate his 70th birthday.

With all of his family at the concert, this was a touching moment honoring the man who has dedicated 30 years of his life to bringing these amazing concerts to Topanga. Holding the flowers given to him by his family he exuded a joy that was felt by everyone in the audience. Then, he turned toward the orchestra and conducted Jean Sibelius’ powerful and dramatic Finlandia that sounds like a proclamation of greatness mixed with the peacefulness of the countryside.

Prelude to Afternoon of a Faun by Claude Debussy is a classical music standard that allows the principal musicians in many instruments to shine. The piece began with the principal flute Paulie Davis’ solo followed by Liesl Erman grabbing the strings of her harp and ringing out the heavenly sounds. Jim Stanley on clarinet, Margreet Ray on oboe and concertmaster violinist Rebecca Rutkowski all showed their expert talents in this piece, a favorite since it was composed in 1894.

Jennifer Kessler took the stage with confidence and pride. She traveled all the way from her home in Brooklyn to play Mozart’s Horn Concerto #1 in D, K 412. Appearing for the second time as a soloist with the Topanga Symphony, Jennifer played beautifully with an ease and technique that befits the eldest child of a musician’s family. She seemed to enjoy every moment on stage.

Powerful, familiar and expressive, The Moldau by Bedrich Smetana was next. Arthur Mintz, President of the Topanga Symphony, noted to the audience that this was the favorite piece of the former manager of the Topanga Symphony, Harold Knox, who passed away a few years ago. Ending the first half of the concert with a storm of sound, the musicians played their hearts out, very impressive and exciting.

A brownie, glass of wine, and a visit with friends during intermission on a cool summer evening brought the audience back for more music. Orca, a piece for flute and piccolo was written by Jerome Kessler for his daughter, Amy. Now married, Amy Neyer lives in Redondo Beach. She first performed this piece on July 8, 2001, with the Topanga Symphony. Kessler wrote the work while visiting the San Juan Islands in the Pacific Northwest. Beginning with a long note by the cellos, the sweet melody from the flute carries through the flowing harmonies as the soloist changes from flute to piccolo and back to flute.

With flowers and smiles after the piece, everyone present appreciated the talented Kessler family.

Mahler’s “Adagietto,” from Symphony #5 featured harpist Liesl Erman. The Topanga Symphony rarely has a harp appear with the musicians, so this piece with its calm and relaxing expression brought a great deal of contrast to the final piece by Zoltan Kodaly Dances From Galanta. Violinist Terry Gilbert, a Topanga resident admitted that the fast-paced gypsy piece was his favorite because it was “fun to play and had lots of juicy passages.”

The Topanga Symphony is a community orchestra with free concerts to the public that are not free to produce. To keep classical music in Topanga, become a Friend of the Topanga Symphony. For more information please go to: topangasymphony.com.

The next amazing concert will be on November 4.