Jasmine Choi: Concert Review

On September 30, I attended the premiere of Clint Needham's “Pocket Concerto” written for flutist extraordinaire Jasmine Choi.  Jasmine is the resident artist for the next 3 years with the New York Classical Players, a truly excellent ensemble conducted by the very inspiring Dongmin Kim.

This was a terrific concert at the Leonia United Methodist Church, and the third of the group's performances in late September. The New York Classical Players named Jasmine Choi its next artist in residence, a three year residency which will feature Ms. Choi performing three newly commissioned flute concertos with the ensemble.

It was a pleasure to hear the new Needham work, named "Pocket Concerto." Needham’s music has been recognized with many awards including The International Barlow Prize and the Underwood New Music Commission from the American Composers Orchestra to name but a few. He has been commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and many more.

Here is a bit of what he says about the work: “Most of the beloved works from the concerto repertoire are quite dramatic and treat the soloist in a multitude of ways that transcend technical virtuosity. In this spirit, my “Pocket Concerto” attempts to offer a variety of expressive experiences for the listener.”  The piece does offer these different experiences in a 3 movement, 15 minute work- movements titled: Soliloquy, Aria, and Bound. These descriptive titles describe my experience too.

Jasmine performed the piece with incredible style and technical exuberance, with a beautiful expressive sound and musicality in the opening two movements, and with amazing virtuosity in the final movement. It is an excellent and well-crafted piece that will make a good addition to the flute repertoire, great for orchestras that don’t want to commit 30-45 minutes to a flute concerto on the program!!

Jasmine also performed her own flute arrangement of Pable De Sarasate’s (1844-1908) Zigeunerweisen and strings (string arrangement by Yoomi Paick). This famous and challenging virtuoso violin piece is equally exciting in the hands of a player of Jasmine Choi’s caliber. She was exciting and exacting and brought the crowd to their feet! The arrangement is available through Theodore Presser and at your favorite music stores.

Other works on this program, beautifully played by New York Classical Players were Grieg’s (1843-1907) Holberg Suite (I love this, I even conducted it once), Grieg’s Two Melodies, which was new to me and very melodic and lovely, and Bartok’s (1881-1945) Romanian Folk Dances (arranged for strings by Arthur Willner).

This was a well curated, interesting, and well-played program. The New York Classical Players are committed to making classical music accessible to all regardless of their ability to pay and to that end all of their concerts are free of charge. I hope to attend more of their concerts soon.

--Barbara Siesel

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