May 28, 2020

Topanga Symphony’s Summer Concert



Topanga Symphony’s Summer Concert

The concert began with a Hayden quartet with, from left, Margreet Ray, oboe; Jerome Kessler, cello; Michael Sandler, bassoon; Rebecca Rutkowski, violin and guest conductor Barry Brisk.

The Topanga Community House audience was filled to capacity at the summer concert of the Topanga Symphony. Classical music fans relaxed in the hall as they waited to hear the music of Haydn, Dvorak and the world premiere of a work by Bill Marx.

The concert began with the quartet, featuring Rebecca Rutkowski, violin, Jerome Kessler, cello, Margreet Ray, oboe, and Michael Sandler, bassoon, playing the “Sinfonia Concertante, Op 84” by Franz Joseph Haydn. This performance demonstrated a level of excellence in musicianship that can be attained when masterful musicians flawlessly play intricate chamber music with skill and ease, showing the respect and admiration for each other that has grown and been nurtured throughout their many years of playing together in rehearsals and concerts. Jerome Kessler has been the Conductor and Music Director since the orchestra began in 1982.

The guest conductor for the Haydn piece was Barry Brisk, conductor of the Beach Cities Symphony and long-time violist with the Topanga Symphony. Brisk created another familiar and comfortable dimension that brought sparkle and shine to the delicate nuance in the design and fabric of traditional classical music. As a respected guest conductor and important member of the orchestra, Brisk’s skillful conducting brought out the best in the musicians who accompanied the chamber ensemble.

As the warm summer day turned into a beautiful cool evening, the premiere of “Fanfare for the Complex Woman” by Bill Marx boldly made its musical statements using elements of solo violin, snare drum, gong and timpani to musically express the complexity of the female gender with a modern interpretation using bold dynamics and mysterious trills. As the string section brought depth to the emotionally filled piece, the brass sounded a powerful call as the crescendo drew to a resounding and dramatic finish. Composer Marx acknowledged the applause and admiration and expressed his appreciation for bringing his “recurring thoughts of decency and equality” to music.

Dr. Harry and Derinda Moses and their staff from SpiritWorks Center for Spiritual Living in Burbank provided delicious intermission refreshments as the audience lingered outside in anticipation of the Dvorak Symphony #9, one of the most beloved pieces in the classical music repertoire. The piece began with a mournful call from the horn, oboe and flute expressing peacefulness until the violins enter with the excitement of new discovery. Also known as the “New World Symphony,” it evokes images of America in its infancy. The music expresses themes of the Wild West and our American Indian heritage full of challenges and promise, conflict and resolution, playfulness and reflection. The second Largo movement featured the first performance of Margreet Ray’s English horn. Her exquisite interpretation of the beautiful melody elevated all listeners to a joyful calm.

After revealing to Kessler that she had invested in a new English horn, Kessler immediately put the Dvorak piece in the program as it is the quintessential work for English horn, and Margreet Ray brought the 1893 piece to life as if it were written just for her. With this kind of talent in Topanga, we need not go anywhere else to hear classical music. The next concert will be held on November 20.


The Topanga Symphony Board of Directors is constantly seeking funding to keep the music alive. There are many ways to help: become a Friend of the Symphony at and save the date for the Third Annual Fundraiser on October 9, with chamber music, hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction. We welcome volunteers to help with the fundraiser and donations for the Silent Auction. Contact us at: