Saturday, January 19, 2013

From the Top - by Justin

Every Saturday morning on the local classical radio station we listen to and thoroughly enjoy From the Top, an NPR radio program showcasing the young musicians of America. On each show there are several young musicians that perform alongside the show’s host, the acclaimed pianist Christopher O’Riley. Each week there is something new to look forward to with a variety of classical instrumentalists, from shrill flutists to resonant bassists, with O’Riley’s constant humor in the background. It was no surprise that when we discovered that From the Top was recording here in Dallas, our family had a unanimous decision to go see the concert.

The Dallas From the Top taping was slightly more unconventional than a normal program. The Meyerson Symphony Center, the location of the concert, is home to a phenomenal group of musicians called the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (locally just called the DSO). Instead of performing with Christopher as performers on the show usually do, all three teen virtuosos and Christopher O’Riley himself played with the DSO accompanying them.
The first musician of the night was Aakash Patel, a violinist who not only got his first instrument off eBay, but also learned how to play by watching YouTube videos. His performance of Saint-Saens’s Violin Concerto No. 3, Movement 1 (Allegro non troppo) was simply fantastic. His clear solo accompanied by the DSO showed his talent as a violinist. During his “call and response” section of the piece, he leaned in towards the orchestra, as if dueling each other with their musical lines.
Locally famous cellist Russell Houston was on stage next, giving the audience a melancholy and moving performance of Bloch’s “Schelomo.” His profound skill with the bow showed with his mastery of the piece, deftly navigating through the complex melodies portraying the tragic history of the Jewish heritage. The emotion Russell put into his playing showed as he appeared to be lost in his own world of music, producing a haunting melody against the full background accompaniment of the DSO.
Not only did this time’s From the Top showcase talented musicians, but also an all-around musical genius. Composer, conductor, and piano prodigy Chase Dobson performed alongside previous musicians Aakash and Russell in his own composition, “Sporting with the Gods” from his Piano Trio No. 1. Although this piece did not leave as lasting an impression as Russell’s performance of “Shelomo,” all three musicians handled the piece marvelously.
To cap off this wonderful concert, From the Top presented a host of great young musicians who performed literally side-by-side with the DSO. Fantastic young musicians from the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra, who just went on tour in Eastern Europe last summer, performed the majestic and glorious finale to Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, “The Great Gate of Kiev.” The ringing melody line and all the supporting lines underneath produced a symphony of musical colors from the orchestra on stage, from the high trumpets to the timpani and percussion providing the resonating support lines. It was a magnificent piece to end such a magnificent concert.
The From the Top concert provided an excellent outlet for me [and the family] to submerge myself back into the realm of music and emerge refreshed. There is no doubt that we will be listening to From the Top every weekend for the months to come.

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