New York City is a musical town, brimming with skilled musicians on every instrument to be found in a modern symphony orchestra. Now that the pandemic closures are mostly behind us, if you can’t find a live classical music performance on any given day across the five boroughs of the Big Apple, you’re surely not trying hard enough.
However, it’s worth sorting through the concert listings to take a seat for the New York Session Symphony, a chamber orchestra not only performing wonderful works since 2014 and a prized partner of PIMF, but bringing the music to audiences who might not otherwise be able to enjoy live classical music.
“NYSS stands out from NYC ensembles in several ways and is a community orchestra in the truest sense,” explained founder and Music Director Benjamin Niemczyk, who is also conductor of Westchester Oratorio Society, New Westchester Symphony Orchestra, Chrysalis Consort, and choir director at St Boniface Oratory Church in Brooklyn.
“First, NYSS has had the pleasure of working with emerging artists (some of whom have participated in the Philadelphia International Music Festival) as well as established artists like NY Philharmonic clarinetist Stanley Drucker and organist/harpsichordist Anthony Newman. Second, NYSS has had the honor of being the ensemble in residence at Lenox Neighborhood House, a community-based organization that serves people in need on the East Side of Manhattan. Third, NYSS has been lucky to include musicians from area public schools—including LaGuardia High School—and local conservatories like Manhattan School of Music and The Juilliard School.”
While much of the NYSS repertoire is drawn from familiar orchestral fare, NYSS last spring gave the NYC premiere of Louise Farrenc’s (1804-1875) Symphony No. 3, a concert Maestro Niemczyk considered an honor and “a sacred moment” for his ensemble.
“Farrenc was a brilliant pianist and composer who taught at the esteemed Paris Conservatory,” he related. “She demanded pay equal to those of her male colleagues, and she received it. She was ahead of her time. Sadly, her music was forgotten. In the late 1990s, research into her life allowed musicians to discover and perform her compositions. In recent years, presentations of her music have accelerated, and NYSS took the opportunity to highlight her voice in New York City.”
Spotlighting unsung classical music stars as well as stars-in-the-making are core values of NYSS’s mission, and Maestro Niemczyk has taken PIMF Concerto Competition winners under his wing and his baton before the pandemic and once again, this fall will extend that spotlight. Winter 2022 PIMF Concerto Competition Winner Xuanxiang (Sean) Wu will be the piano soloist on Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto – the composer’s only piano concerto – with NYSS on Saturday, November 12, 2022 at Broadway Presbyterian Church in Manhattan.
“Musicians need performance opportunities—especially when they are young—in order to exercise and develop their gifts,” Maestro Niemczyk stressed. “Because one cannot manufacture an orchestra ex nihilo, those opportunities are generally rare. Too many musicians are left wondering ‘what might have been?’ NYSS seeks to fill that gap by collaborating with PIMF.
“Artists like Sean—and others before him—bring a luminous energy to their performance that is unique to young people. For the orchestra, that energy is inspiring, and past collaborations with PIMF winners remain special memories for each orchestra member. One cannot always recall what they played in the previous cycle, but they invariably know who the soloist was! NYSS is grateful to PIMF for the continued partnership.”
And as many of PIMF’s students would say – “Hard same!” We treasure the partnership and look forward to making musical magic and memories together.
CONCERT DETAILS: Saturday, November 12, 2022 at 7:30PM. Admission is free. The concert features Beethoven’s Fidelio Overture, Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54 (Xuanxiang Wu, soloist) and Niels Gade’s Symphony No. 4. The venue is Broadway Presbyterian Church, 114 St at Broadway.