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Necessity is the Mother of Invention: The Concert Meister Series in New York

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To save on costly travel and hotel accommodation for international high-calibre musicians, Simona DeFeo envisioned a concert series of solo performances for musicians who had already arrived in the country with their orchestras. Moderate pricing of the concerts would be an added advantage of her concept. Together with Israeli pianist Elisha Abas whose long career and many connections in the international music world helped facilitate the series, a new concert entity was born: The Concert Meister Series.

Albena Danailova, one of the very few female violinists and also one of four concert meisters at the Vienna Philharmonic, had come to the U.S. for a performance at the United Nations. On Tuesday, November 3, 2009, she played the very first concert of the brand-new series at the Performing Arts Center of New York’s Baruch College.

The program at Baruch’s Engelman Recital Hall included Beethoven’s ‚Kreutzersonate’ (Nr. 9, opus 47 in A major), Bela Bartoks Sonata Nr. 1, followed by Ronn Yedidia’s ‚Lullabye’, and ‚Liebesleid’, as well as ‚Marche Miniature Viennoise’ by Fritz Kreisler. Julian Riem, the young pianist and alumnus of the Musik-Akademie Basel (Switzerland), accompanied Danailova. Resident componist Ronn Yedida, a student of David Diamond und Milton Babbitt, was present during the concert.

"For many musicians who are used to only performing as part of an orchestra, being able to perform as a soloist again is a much welcomed change“, said Danailova in an interview with the New York Times. Thanks to the Concert Meister Series, this rare opportunity is now becoming a reality more frequently.

The Chopin Vodka – (partly) sponsored afterparty at the ‚W hotel’s restaurant ‚Olives’ on Union Square offered a stylish encore, and a chance for meeting and greeting over drinks and elegant hors d’ouvres. I was pleased to be able to meet Ronn Yedida, and to talk to Elisha Abas and Simona DeFeo about the fantastic concept of the series.

"I’m surprised that nobody has come up with this simple concept before“, said Abas. "We rent a hall and share the profits among the musicians. Like that, everybody wins, and nobody’s risk is very big.“

And Ms. DeFeo added: “In November 2008 I tested the waters and produced a concert titled "The Concert Meister Series presents Micha Haran”. The turnout was unbelievable. Everything was done through word of mouth and Internet marketing. In 2009 I conducted a second test with Sergey Ostrovsky, concert meister of The Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. Again the concert was a hit. Later that summer, I asked Elisha Abas to join me as the Artistic Director, based on his relationships with artists.Chopin Vodka was willing to sponsor a part of the costs for the after parties”.

And she continues: ”Let me be very clear: This really is not a series, but a global community of artists and composers who come together to perform and get to know the audience."

But this is not where things stop for Ms DeFeo. She wants to take her concept to the world of theater and dance, as well as to museums and galleries. She would also like to extend performances to other artistic hubs, like London and Paris.

Her business background (she is a free-lance consultant for financial service firms) clearly helps in her endeavours, as does the fact that she is Internet-savvy and can make full use of social meet-up and communal sites like Facebook and others. Add to that word-of-mouth and printed flyers, and you can understand why her creative energy has been translated into a very successful concept.

Yet, one challenge remains: that of finding suitable venues. Not an easy task in a city brimming with cultural events of any kind. But Ms DeFeo has not only reached out to the obvious choices, like Juilliard, the Manhattan School of Music, and other institutions offering music education, but also to embassies and UN missions.The opening concert was attended by the Austrian Ambassador Ernst Peter Brezovsky.

The quality of the series rests on the excellence of its performers. The violinist Guy Braunstein, concert meister of the Berlin Philharmonic, and Glenn Dicterow, concert meister of the New Yorker Philharmonic, have already agreed to perform, as has Micha Haran, first cellist, und Roman Spitzer, first violinist, both of the Israel Philharmonic.

No doubt – Simona DeFeo’s and Elisha Abas’ ingenious project enriches New York’s classical music world by providing yet more delicious musical morsels.

This season’s performances at the Baruch’s Performing Arts Center:

Sat, Nov 14, 2009 at 7:30pm: Guy Braunstein, Violin, Concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, with pianist, Shai Wosner performing Mozart Violin Sonata in B flat major, K454 and Brahms Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor Op. 108.

Sunday, Nov 22, 2009 at 4:00 PM: Amerigo Trio featuring New York Philharmonic's Concertmaster, Glenn Dicterow with violist, Karen Dreyfus and cellist, Inbal Segev will be performing Zoltan Kodaly Intermezzo for String Trio, Gideon Klein String Trio, and Leo Weiner String Trio in g minor, Op. 6 (1908).

Saturday, December 12, 2009 at 8:00 PM: Micha Haran, Principal Cellist of Israel Philharmonic Orchestra with concert pianist, Xheni Rroji will perform pieces by Schumann, Pierre Sancan, Jan Friedlan, and Schubert.

Friday, December 18, 2009 at 8:00 PM: Roman Spitzer, Principal Violist of Israel Philharmonic Orchestra with concert pianist Xheni Rroji will perform pieces by Bach, Schumann and Brahms.

Tickets can be purchased online, by calling the Baruch box office at (646) 312-4085 or 5073; by calling Theatermania at (212) 352-3101; or in person at the Baruch Performing Arts Center box office at Baruch College, 55 Lexington Ave (enter on 25th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues

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About Ilona Oltuski

  • http://www.concertmeister.org Simona DeFeo

    Dear Ms. Oltuksi, This is a vivid profile of the Concert Meister Series. You have captured the essence of our project/community with great detail and accuracy! Thank You for writing such a great article and sharing with us our experience. We look forward to having you at future concerts! Best, Simona DeFeo

  • Joe Pontecorvo

    great idea,but will it work?