Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Conductor Farkhad Khudyev Shares His Raison D’Etre

This coming Sunday, March 25, highly regarded up-and-coming conductor Farkhad Khudyev leads the Greenwich Village Orchestra in a 3 PM performance of Kachaturian’s Sabre Dance and Violin Concerto, and the Brahms Symphony No. 3. It looks to be an auspicious connection between like-minded, energetically-inclined purists. A child prodigy on the violin in his native Turkmenistan, Khudyev is Azeri by descent, educated at Interlochen, Oberlin and Yale, and has conducted several orchestras in central Asia and the United States. A thoughtful and passionately honest advocate for the music he performs, Khudyev took some time out of his schedule to answer a few questions about the concert:

Lucid Culture: Audiences often wonder how orchestras and conductors come together. How did this gig happen? Did you find the GVO or did they find you?

Farkhad Khudyev: Barbara Yahr [the Greenwich Village Orchestra’s conductor] contacted me after looking at my video materials, we met for a cup of coffee and had a lovely time talking about music and the conducting world.

LC: You come from an interesting background as an awardwinning young concert violinist – which was your ticket to a scholarship at Interlochen, the Juilliard of the midwest. How did you get involved with conducting? Has this always been an interest for you?

FK: Conducting has always been something incredibly special to me. I remember when I was studying violin and composition back at Interlochen, the desire to conduct was already coming to me then. Through this mystical and beautiful art I felt I could communicate the best that great artists have given us, while simultaneously bringing my own inner world into the music.

LC: Does conducting get in the way of the violin for you, or vice versa? Which do you prefer – or does it really matter to you?

FK: I try to find time for the violin as much as I can. Currently Australian pianist Stephen Whale and I have been performing as a duo, Duo Fondamento, where we try to bring out a fundamental approach to our interpretation of Beethoven, Brahms, as well as various other sonatas in our repertoire. I also often play with my two brothers, violinist Eldar Khudyev and clarinetist Emil Khudyev, who are fantastic musicians. We’ve done critically acclaimed concerts together at several venues throughout the world as the Khudyev Brothers. Conducting, playing the violin and composing are all closely related, I feel, and all three of these great art forms help me communicate what I have to say through music.

LC: You’re also a composer. How has does that inform your view of how to conduct an orchestra?

FK: Composing has helped me to understand instrumentation, orchestration and most of all I learned how to compose all the great works of great composers for myself again. In other words, I learned to rediscover music that I conduct and bring some fresh air into these great works.

LC: You’ve led a very diverse list of orchestras, from your native Turkmenistan, to Russia, to the USA. As a guest conductor, what’s the main challenge for you?

FK: As guest conductor, it is a challenge to bring all the musicians together and let them trust your own inner world. Once musicians see the truth and depth in your work, trust comes very quickly. I find that first rehearsal is very important. My goal is to inspire every musician in the orchestra so we all have a great experience working together and most importantly a meaningful performance. The GVO is a wonderful orchestra with such friendly and warm musicians. This month has been a great experience for me.

LC: To what degree can a conductor breathe new life into well-known works like these without completely twisting them out of shape – or should a conductor attempt such at thing at all?

FK: I think that a conductor can only attempt to breathe new life into these great works once the music has lived with him or her for a long time. The point where the music speaks through a conductor is the right time to attempt to bring it to life. These works are full of inner depth, and they require time and experience to be able to understand, and to breathe new life into them.

LC: I think you’re going to find this orchestra a joy to work with. Is there anything special that audiences should look forward to on the 25th?

FK: Since I am ethnically Azeri, from Turkmenistan, it’s very special for me to conduct Kachaturian’s music – its traits are similar to the culture I grew up in. This music is full of strength as well as ethereal warmth and softness. These two extreme sonic aspects are culturally meaningful in the Caucasus. Brahms’ Third Symphony is a great example of an artist’s love of freedom and longing for it, despite life’s bitter hardships. Brahms cherishes all kinds of wonderful memories with great tenderness throughout the symphony, immortalizing them in the music.

LC: Are you sick to death of getting tagged with the wunderkind thing, you know, “young conductor?” I mean, you’re in your twenties now, you’ve graduated from conservatory. Can we simply count you among your peers in the conducting world now? Is that what you’ve worked toward all along?

FK: Music is my life and it gives me a chance to express everything I have in my heart which I am strongly thankful for. Therefore I have never taken the “wunderkind thing” seriously, since it does not mean much to me. I know that as long as I live I will try to give everything to this divine gift. Music grants strength, sincerity, purity and joy to humanity, which is so essential in our world.

Farkhad Khudyev leads the Greenwich Village Orchestra in a performance of Kachaturian’s Sabre Dance, Violin Concerto and Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 at Washington Irving HS Auditorium, Irving Place and 16th St. in Manhattan at 3 PM on Sunday, March 25, $15 sugg. don., reception to follow.

March 18, 2012 Posted by | classical music, concert, interview, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another Thrill Ride with the Greenwich Village Orchestra

There’s no thrill like being right on top of a symphony orchestra as they stampede through a particularly energetic passage. It’s almost like standing too close to the tracks as a train goes by: you literally feel the music as much as you hear it. And at the Greenwich Village Orchestra’s concerts, you don’t have to have a hedge fund in order to get a front row seat (a $15 donation gets you in; as at Merkin Hall, seats are general admission). Their previous performance back in November looked to be pretty much sold out; their concert this past Sunday wasn’t, probably because the program was more obscure (and maybe because it was what has become unseasonably cold outside). As it turned out, nobody took those front-row seats this time, probably because the sightlines are better a little further back in the auditorium. Standing in for the orchestra’s music director Barbara Yahr, conductor Pierre Vallet led the ensemble through a joyous, often Christmasy program that began and ended on a celebratory note. Conceivably, this particular bill would have been an appropriate choice for the New York Philharmonic Society to play sometime in the winter of 1886.

The first piece was Wagner’s Prelude to Die Meistersinger. Although it’s hardly profound, it’s impossible not to pick up on the subtleties and get lost in the music if you’re only about fifteen feet from the stage. A cynic might say that the orchestra figured, ok, if we have to play this thing, we might as well have fun with it – and they did! It wasn’t quite unbridled lust, but it was close to it – and the piece’s artful little touches, like the tense, shivery strings leading up to a crescendo in the midsection (“Uh oh, is the singer up there going to blow it, or win the contest? This suspense is killing me!”) were undeniable. The opera it comes from is farcical – it’s an ancestor of American Idol – but this orchestra redeemed it, at least this particular excerpt.

German Romantic composer Max Bruch is best known for his plaintively powerful Kol Nidre Variations. The Orchestra played his four-part Scottish Fantasy suite, which isn’t quite as gripping, but it’s awfully close, particularly the lushly moody opening movement. Guest violinist Hye-Jin Kim was obviously enjoying herself as she made her way through meticulously bracing variations on the Scottish folk themes on which the piece is based. It’s a showcase for virtuoso fiddle-dance moves, and Kim made the most of them as the work picked up steam, its cinematics shifting from rugged Scottish coastline to country dance and then a triumphant battle theme, Vallet literally dancing on his toes on the podium as the orchestra swung through the changes with congenial majesty.

The concluding piece was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4, which is vastly underrated as Beethoven goes. The backstory here is that when he wrote this, Beethoven was in the midst of a particularly fertile period, even by his standards. He’d already started the Fifth Symphony, but then received a commission from a German nobleman (in those days, there were no foundations for the arts and no Kickstarter: you went straight to the one-percenters) who was a big fan of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2. Perhaps cynically, it seems the composer figured something like, “What the heck, I’ll knock off this one and then get back to my new magnum opus.” But he didn’t just phone it in – in its warm, comfortably glimmering way, this was a joy to hear. A well-oiled, perfectly balanced machine, the orchestra made their way through the suspenseful atmospherics of the opening movement, to a sudden, blustery gallop and then the buoyantly swaying minuet in the second, awash in the glimmering contentment of the high strings against warmly nocturnal, sustained brass and woodwind tones. After the stately, hypnotic, bass-driven pulse of the third movement, violinist/concertmaster Robert Hayden nimbly led the rest of the strings through the understatedly apprehensive flurries of chromatics that finally lit the fuse for several entertainingly Beethovenesque false endings. In the back, Yahr grinned in appreciation for the way her orchestra had bonded with Vallet, and vice versa. The GVO’s next concert is especially choice: March 25 at 3 PM at Washington Irving HS Auditorium on Irving Place, featuring Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance and Violin Concerto followed by Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 directed by up-and-coming conductor Farkhad Khudyev.

February 15, 2012 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment