Sejong Soloists with Orli Shaham at Cerritos: the Future and Seasons Are Bright
By Glen Creason
After much classical Sturm and Drang this season at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts the Sejong Soloists came to town and provided the hall with genuine happiness in the form of Felix Mendelsshon, Michael Haydn and the suddenly Cerritos star Astor Piazzola. It is amazing that so much young talent could be assembled on one stage but these soloists put an honest-to-goodness all-star team to work and their youthful enthusiasm mixed with superior talent make for some very beautiful music. These musicians hail from all over the globe and together they speak the same sweet language of classical music. If only the people of this messed up planet could operate like these young artists and work together in harmony we could listen to Mendellshon and Piazzola instead of watching battles in the streets. Most of these young men and women are the cream of the crop from schools like Julliard but their egos seemed not to show on this night as they worked together delightfully.
The fourteen-member troupe filled the hall with joy from the first note of Michael Haydn’s “Notturno in F Major” that got the audience upright in their seats and ready for more. Despite being in his more famous brother’s shadow Michael Haydn’s work is wonderful and influential on later composers such as the great Mozart. This piece was cake in the hands of Sejong, producing a bright and energetic tone throughout. The second part of the program featured the demanding and somewhat eccentric “Four Seasons” of Astor Piazzola that was divided between four excellent soloists. The violinists: Adam Barnett-Hart, Ji In Yang, Emilie-Anne Gendron and Ana Park were uniquely wonderful, reflecting not so much the change of seasons but the emotions of the people of Piazzola’s native Buenos Aires. To hear the four parts done as a suite was fascinating since they seemed to fit together perfectly despite the fact that the composer wrote them as separate entities. With the four soloists shining in each segment it seemed this might be hard to beat but there was a very special second half ahead. The audience needed a little breather after Piazzola’s intricate Seasons but the concert just got better and better. When pianist Orli Shahan put her slender fingers to the big Steinway worries seemed to melt away and the audience was transported to the Romantic period where the true genius Felix Mendelssohn wrote this “concerto in d minor for violin, piano and string orchestra” back when he was barely a teenager! This is not to short the superb work of violinist Daniel Cho who matched Ms. Shahan’s perfect playing and this sweet synergy made for some marvelously stirring moments. It was not the back and forth that this piece could be but a cooperation that elevated the music to blessed heights. Orli Shahan is in a handful of the best pianists heard in this hall’s history and it would be very nice to see her back on this stage some night in a recital. As it was she was very humble and thankful to play with this fine young group who demonstrated over and over again that the future is bright for serious music around the world. The rather refined and well turned out crowd said their farewells to the Sejong Soloists with a long and strong standing ovation.