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Review: Orchestra Moderne NYC is Moving and Relevant at Carnegie Hall

The world of live classical music faces existential challenges, as ticket-buying audiences dwindle, and orchestras across the country face financial hurdles. Evenings of film music abound in programming and orchestral tours are built around, of all things, video games.The success of familiar and accessible programming has converged with an examination of diversity and inclusivity, to birth a new orchestral ensemble in New York, Orchestra Moderne NYC, founded by conductor Amy Andersson.The ensemble’s debut concert, entitled The Journey to America: From Repression to Freedom (Part 1), served as an opening manifesto of Andersson’s vision and their stated mission of diversity, inclusivity, and cultural relevance. The program began with a piece by a female composer, and focused on music reflective of the immigrant experience. An interpreter for the deaf translated into American Sign Language.Following hopeful introductory remarks by Karen Johal, a daughter of immigrants, the program began grandly with Overture to Light by Lolita Ritmanis, an Emmy-winning composer for film and television who specializes in scoring superhero-themed material.This well-crafted programmatic overture remembers World War II Latvian refugees (including the composer’s parents), the liberation of Latvia from Soviet rule and the beloved National Library of Latvia, called the Castle of Light. This brightly hued natural concert opener was resplendent with lush, satisfying harmonies, and delicious emotional swells. The orchestra, under Andersson’s clear baton, played with verve and flair, and the piece climaxed with a lyrical trumpet solo played splendidly by John Sheppard.Ritmanis’ compositional voice is firmly planted in the conservative tropes of Hollywood film scores, as if much of the twentieth century never happened. For some classical music listeners, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, avoiding twelve-tone technique, serialism, and other methods of maximizing dissonance. Condescend as the cognoscenti may, Andersson might be on to something in focusing on music that is ‘approachable.’Read More

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