By Mary-Justine Lanyon
The board of the Arrowhead Arts Association voted to offer the Riverside Philharmonic Orchestra to the community as a gift, thanks to a grant from the Ahmanson Foundation and donations from the association’s faithful supporters.
But before that gift was opened at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church on Sunday, Sept. 19, the audience was presented with another gift – a performance by the MountainTop Strings. These talented young musicians played several pieces, ranging from classical to contemporary.
Ken Camarella, president of the Arrowhead Arts Association, told the audience that they have fostered the strings program since 2002, offering instruction to more than 100 young musicians every year. AAA has also offered music education to the mountain’s three elementary schools for 20 years, Camarella said.
Prior to Maestro Tomasz Golka taking the podium, mountain resident Diane Gladwell took her place there to conduct the orchestra in their playing of the national anthem.
As the orchestra prepared to play Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A major (“Italian”), Maestro Golka shared that Mendelssohn wrote the piece in 1833 while traveling through Italy. “He hated it but others loved it,” Golka said.
Mendelssohn revised the symphony but those revisions were lost and were not discovered and played until 1992. It was those revisions the Riverside Philharmonic presented to the mountain audience. “These are rarely played,” the maestro said.
As Golka raised his arms, the familiar notes of the first movement were heard throughout the church’s sanctuary. Golka is a very animated conductor and almost appears to dance as he conducts. One audience member called him a dancing butterfly; as he waved his arms, he appeared to be flying.
As he brought the dynamics he wanted out of the musicians, it was easy to see why the Philharmonic just renewed Maestro Golka’s contract for another five years, something Camarella announced to the audience.
Following the intermission, Camarella recognized Linda Wilson, the longest tenured violinist in the Riverside Philharmonic. This is her 48th season, he said, adding she has been one of the MountainTop Strings teachers for 11 years.
Wilson was also recognized by Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh, whose district director, Nick Calero, presented Wilson with a special certificate in honor of her years of service.
“Music unites diverse people, inspires educational growth and contributes to the overall well-being of our community,” Calero read from the certificate. “Thank you for your dedication to Arrowhead Arts Association and the instruction of music. You have my most sincere appreciation.”
Camarella then called Maestro Golka back to the podium and concert pianist David Kaplan to the Yamaha concert grand brought in for his performance of Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor by Johannes Brahms.
As the orchestra began playing the first movement, Kaplan sat quietly at the piano with his eyes closed, feeling the full, rich sound from the orchestra as he waited for his entrance.
Then, as he played, he would lean back on the bench, then lean in to emphasize the notes. He shook his head, sending his hair flying, and occasionally stomped on the piano’s pedals. From time to time, Kaplan looked away from the keys as he played and focused his attention on the orchestra.
Maestro Golka would cue Kaplan with a look and then leaned over to listen to him.
In several places throughout the three movements of the piano concerto, Kaplan’s fingers flew over the keys, sounding like water rippling in a stream.
The thunderous applause and standing ovation at the end of the concerto brought Kaplan back to the piano for an encore – a piece by Robert Schumann.
For more information on Arrowhead Arts Association or to make a donation, visit www.ArrowheadArts.org.