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Philharmonic astounding in opener

November 10, 2010|By Lance A. Wawer
(Libby Cline/News-Press )

The Glendale Philharmonic opened its second season with a spectacular performance Sunday evening at the First Baptist Church of Glendale. The musicianship, conducting, acoustics and intimacy of the concert were all of the highest order and provided a memorable experience.

Johann Christian Bach's "Cello Concerto in C Minor" kicked off the evening. Acclaimed cellist (and Glendale Philharmonic founder) Ruslan Biryukov was the soloist for this selection, and he set the tone for the concert with a moving rendition of the piece.

The orchestra's accompaniment was flawless, but it was impossible to take one's eyes off of Biryukov as he brought an emotion to his playing that was riveting. From mournful to playful, every note was something to breathe in and appreciate. If the show had ended there, I would have been satisfied. Thankfully it did not.

Maestro Mikael Avetisyan's outstanding ensemble of musicians became the focus in presenting Rossini's "String Sonata No. 2." Playing another technically demanding offering, the orchestra masterfully executed with precision, flair and heart. First chair violoncello Maksim Velichkin, first chair violin (and principal concertmaster) Limor Toren and double bass player Manuel Quintero stood out in a performance that would have impressed both the untrained and most seasoned classical music listener.

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Next was a special guest performance by the Glendale Youth Orchestra. Embarking on its 22nd season, this group of musicians ranging from the sixth to 12th grades performed the first movement of Mozart's "31st Symphony." Under the direction of conductor Brad Keimach, these kids practically stole the show.

Playing a piece that is almost a checklist of demanding techniques, the youth orchestra brought the house down. This was no band recital. If one merely listened and could not see the players, there would be no way of knowing it wasn't a seasoned group of playing professionals. Keimach beamed like a proud father as the audience gave the young savants a standing ovation.

Taking the concert into intermission was an interesting set of Armenian folk songs featuring the duduk (a wooden folk instrument similar to a recorder with a reed). Duduk master (and Glendale resident) Ruben Harutyunyan was the featured soloist.

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