Necessity is the Mother of Invention: The Concert Meister Series in New York
To save on costly travel and hotel accommodation for international high-calibre musicians, Simona DeFeo envisioned a concert series of solo performances for musicians who had already arrived in the country with their orchestras. Moderate pricing of the concerts would be an added advantage of her concept. Together with Israeli pianist Elisha Abas whose long career and many connections in the international music world helped facilitate the series, a new concert entity was born: The Concert Meister Series.
Albena Danailova, one of the very few female violinists and also one of four concert meisters at the Vienna Philharmonic, had come to the U.S. for a performance at the United Nations. On Tuesday, November 3, 2009, she played the very first concert of the brand-new series at the Performing Arts Center of New York’s Baruch College.
The program at Baruch’s Engelman Recital Hall included Beethoven’s ‚Kreutzersonate’ (Nr. 9, opus 47 in A major), Bela Bartoks Sonata Nr. 1, followed by Ronn Yedidia’s ‚Lullabye’, and ‚Liebesleid’, as well as ‚Marche Miniature Viennoise’ by Fritz Kreisler. Julian Riem, the young pianist and alumnus of the Musik-Akademie Basel (Switzerland), accompanied Danailova. Resident componist Ronn Yedida, a student of David Diamond und Milton Babbitt, was present during the concert.
“For many musicians who are used to only performing as part of an orchestra, being able to perform as a soloist again is a much welcomed change“, said Danailova in an interview with the New York Times. Thanks to the Concert Meister Series, this rare opportunity is now becoming a reality more frequently.
The Chopin Vodka – (partly) sponsored afterparty at the ‚W hotel’s restaurant ‚Olives’ on Union Square offered a stylish encore, and a chance for meeting and greeting over drinks and elegant hors d’ouvres. I was pleased to be able to meet Ronn Yedida, and to talk to Elisha Abas and Simona DeFeo about the fantastic concept of the series.
“I’m surprised that nobody has come up with this simple concept before“, said Abas. “We rent a hall and share the profits among the musicians. Like that, everybody wins, and nobody’s risk is very big.“
And Ms. DeFeo added: “In November 2008 I tested the waters and produced a concert titled “The Concert Meister Series presents Micha Haran”. The turnout was unbelievable. Everything was done through word of mouth and Internet marketing. In 2009 I conducted a second test with Sergey Ostrovsky, concert meister of The Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. Again the concert was a hit. Later that summer, I asked Elisha Abas to join me as the Artistic Director, based on his relationships with artists.Chopin Vodka was willing to sponsor a part of the costs for the after parties”.
And she continues: ”Let me be very clear: This really is not a series, but a global community of artists and composers who come together to perform and get to know the audience.”
But this is not where things stop for Ms DeFeo. She wants to take her concept to the world of theater and dance, as well as to museums and galleries. She would also like to extend performances to other artistic hubs, like London and Paris.
Her business background (she is a free-lance consultant for financial service firms) clearly helps in her endeavours, as does the fact that she is Internet-savvy and can make full use of social meet-up and communal sites like Facebook and others. Add to that word-of-mouth and printed flyers, and you can understand why her creative energy has been translated into a very successful concept.
Yet, one challenge remains: that of finding suitable venues. Not an easy task in a city brimming with cultural events of any kind. But Ms DeFeo has not only reached out to the obvious choices, like Juilliard, the Manhattan School of Music, and other institutions offering music education, but also to embassies and UN missions.The opening concert was attended by the Austrian Ambassador Ernst Peter Brezovsky.