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For its first-ever spring festival, Brooklyn’s One World Symphony will pair music by established composers with world premieres by composers who were influenced by them on consecutive Tuesday evenings at the church of St. Ann and the Holy Trinity in Brooklyn Heights.

David Hong, conductor and director of One World, said the series, which began March 25, grew out of the musicians’ own aspirations.

"We’d been giving concerts once a month this season, and with all the promise within the ensemble, we felt there was more we could be doing," he told GO Brooklyn.

"All our members are young, professionally skilled and dedicated musicians who believe in what they are playing," he said, "so the suggestion came that we perform once a week rather than once a month. That started the idea of experimenting with these concerts."

Hong said the orchestra aims high in such programming decisions.

"The challenge is finding the music to perform on each program," he explained. "The audience will hear the music of composers they are likely already familiar with, and then hear their influence on modern composers. We’re also featuring letters written by the major composers, read by actors or scholars. And we’re featuring four local composers alongside the better-known composers, putting this new music into the context of the great composers of the past."

Each "new" composer on the program is familiar to Hong and the orchestra and lives in the New York area: Margarita Zelenaia, whose Sonata for Flute and Piano premiered March 25, lives in Manhattan; Hong, whose "Musikverein" premieres April 1, lives in Prospect Park; Pedro D’Aquino, whose Mozart-influenced world premiere will be April 8, is a Bay Ridge resident; and John Craven, whose vocal work "To the New Day" premieres April 15, recently moved from Park Slope to New Jersey.

The April 1 concert is indebted as much to a famous Austrian philosopher as it is to the music of Richard Wagner.

"While I was at the Vienna State Conservatory, my philosophy professor was a student of Viktor Frankl, himself a student of Sigmund Freud," Hong explained. "She introduced me to Frankl at one of my concerts, and he was an inspiration to me.

"It was his line, ’Let us shake hands over their graves,’ that made me think of Felix Mendelssohn, who was a Jew, and Wagner, who was an anti-Semite. They both wrote very beautiful music," said Hong.

Hong’s composition "Musikverein" is subtitled "Homage to Viktor Frankl," taking influences from Mendelssohn and Wagner, who Hong believes has gotten a raw deal. Case in point: Wagner’s lovely birthday present to his wife, Cosima, "Siegfried Idyll," opening the April 1 program.

"It’s an intimate work, which contradicts the prevailing thoughts about Wagner’s music - the incredible length, drama and bombast," Hong said. "’Siegfried Idyll’ is the total opposite, showing him as a gentle human being. Whatever he said about others, it shows that he loved his wife."

For the April 8 program, Pedro D’Aquino - One World’s artistic adviser - premieres a vocal work comprised of letters written by Mozart.

"The third movement of Mozart’s ’Gran Partita’ [which opens the concert] has greatly influenced Pedro’s work - my teacher once told me you could get a glimpse of heaven listening to that movement, which is Mozart at his most sublime and elegant," said Hong. "Pedro uses the same orchestration: all winds."

Hong marveled, "He can do it all: organist, pianist and baritone, as well as a composer."

The final program, on April 15, pairs Aaron Copland’s "Appalachian Spring" with John Craven’s two-movement "To the New Day" for chorus, baritone, mezzo-soprano and orchestra, based on poems by University of Iowa professor Marvin Bell.

"There’s an honest struggle in John’s music," said Hong, noting that American composers like Copland and Samuel Barber have provided inspiration. Craven himself says, "’Appalachian Spring’ has been a huge influence on me, and Copland’s emphasis on the open space and nature exists in my piece as well. He was a father of American music for many younger composers."

One World Symphony’s exciting series shows that classical music is alive and well, a direct line connecting the great composers of the past with those of the present.


One World Symphony will perform April 1, April 8 and April 15 at 8 pm at the Church of St. Ann and the Holy Trinity, corner of Montague and Clinton streets in Brooklyn Heights. Tickets are $20, $10 for students. For more information, go to

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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