Music in the air

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Central Park enveloped in fog. 9:00 PM. Photo: JH.

Monday, March 11, 2019. Daylight Savings; Spring forward enters the scenario and Mother Nature treated us to some rain but not too much and temps into the 40s and climbing. Last night, the city was covered in a fog.

Last week; Music in the air. The Friends of the Budapest Festival Orchestra held their gala kick-off party last week at Sylvia Hemingway’s Fifth Avenue residence with guests of honor Ambassador Donald Blinken and Governor George Pataki attending. The hostess served Hungarian wine from her DHP Vineyard. “Egészségedre!” toasted Sylvia (“Cheers!” in Hungarian).

Friends chairman, Stephen Benko flew in from Budapest for the occasion, announced in his toast that April 6th will be the benefit dinner and concert at Carnegie Hall. There are also plans for a second Vicenza Opera Festival, opening October 20th, 2019.


Stephen Benko

Among those attending were: Daisy Soros, Kristina Allegra, Steven Aronson, Ambassador Nancy Brinker, Dr. Karen Burke, Joan Hardy Clark, Aaron Feinstein, John and Carole French, Susan Gutfreund, Cheri Kaufman and Bill Sclight, Michèle Gerber Klein, Aimee and William Maroney, Reni Rothschild, Stephanie Stokes, Barbara and Donald Tober, Annette Vass, and Máté Vincze (director of the Hungarian Cultural Center).

For more information see; friendsofthebudapestfestivalorchestra.org


Sylvia Hemingway, Ambassador Nancy Brinker, Jennifer Lang, and George Pataki
Donald Blinken, Sylvia Hemingway, and George Pataki
Kristina Allegra, Reni Rothschild, and Stephen Benko
Aaron Feinstein and Stephen Angel

L to R.: Nicholas and Monika Elling; Mary Chan and Heidi-Lee Komaromi
Jennifer Lang and Stephanie Stokes
Steven M. L. Aronson and Joan Hardy Clark
Laura Wilmott, Laine Siklos, Mia Carbonell, and Ike Newman
Cheri Kaufman and Antonia Paterno-Castello

Then, last Monday night at a private club here in New York The Vienna Philharmonic Society presented The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra performing “Sextet in G Major, Op. 36” by Johannes Brahms. This was a beautiful evening benefit, black tie, with cocktails at 6:30 for approximately a hundred guests, with concert at 7:15 followed by dinner at 8:15.
When everyone was seated for the concert Marife Hernandez , who chairs the Society, introduced the musicians and gave us a little history of Brahms’ piece. It had its world premiere in Boston in 1865. It features a classical cast of two violins, two violas, and two violoncellos. It also is known among connoisseurs as being very demanding to perform.
Personally I am always amazed and in awe of the musicians — I can’t play a stringed instrument — who achieve it seemingly at ease with what looks to these eyes as so incredibly complex.


The Musikverein in Vienna, the concert hall of the Vienna Philharmonic.

After the concert guests moved to the dining room for an excellent dinner abounding with conversation. It was one of those rare nights in New York where a number of people who enjoy and celebrate the pleasure of classical music are treated to a brilliant performance that changes the atmosphere of our day-to-day world. Black tie but very relaxed. The dinner following was seated, and the hostess clearly knows the secrets of seating for the table abounded with active conversation.

The Orchestra was also performing at Carnegie Hall the Saturday and Sunday before and the following Tuesday and Wednesday.


The program.
The menu.

Last Wednesday night, my friend Eve Stuart and her partner Peter Fernandez hosted a PEN America Winter 2019 Authors’ Evening at home. The guest of honor was Eve’s daughter Amanda Stern, who has written a best-selling memoir “Little Panic; Dispatches from an Anxious Life.”

These PEN evenings are fund-raisers for the organization and always interesting for the guests with a writer discussing her or his work. I’ve known Eve for decades but have known her daughter only more recently and always briefly. I applaud any writer who completes a self-assignment, and I knew from our short conversations that, like her mother, Amanda is a very intelligent and kind woman. The business of “panic” is something that I tend to think of as clinical. I have a personal interest but only regarding myself. I’m not inclined to reach for a book about it.

Click to order “Little Panic; Dispatches from an Anxious Life.”

However, that said after the dinner – there were 20 at table – our hostess introduced her daughter. The memoir is described as “brave,” and one that “courageously lays open her excruciating experience with 25 years of untreated panic disorder.” Also not the top of my reading list although I know personally about the “disorder” and know several who do also.

However, the dinner changed all that. I learned that the book has already gained great popularity because of its roots (in childhood experience). Amanda has been giving talks far and wide in schools in this country and in Canada, with children between eight and twelve. In her efforts she’s also cleared a path for helping very young people to deal with the consequences of their anxieties as well as understanding what they are and how to help oneself. In a world where children are bombarded with our issues of the human race in the 21st century, I can see that this is a great gift to them.

So when I got home, I opened the book to check out a couple of the pages (to see if the voice was going to draw me in). It did, effortlessly. The writer is the same person I’ve met: warm and friendly and forthright. Aside from what she is doing for the small children she meets in classrooms, with her stark but gently expressed honesty, she’s doing for this writer also. This is a classic. If the subject has even slightly interested you for whatever reason, it will interest you more and personally as you are reading it.


And this past weekend, JH and his wife Danielle took a quick weekend trip to Philadelphia to attend a performance of Giselle by the Pennsylvania Ballet at the Academy of Music. The Company’s Artistic Director is Angel Corella, known far and wide for his brilliant performances with the American Ballet Theatre when he was a principal dancer. This is his fifth year as the Artistic Director of the company and according to JH and his balletomane wife, the company is really starting to blossom. Corella’s restaging of the story was “tasteful” and “elegant” and the role of Giselle was performed “majestically” by Principal Dancer Mayara Pineiro. There are three more performances upcoming on March 15, 16, and 17th. JH says it’s well worth the trip — plus the food in Phili is to die for.


The Academy of Music first opened its doors in 1857, making it the oldest opera house in the United States.
The interior of the The Academy of Music, modeled on Milan’s famed La Scala.
Conductor Peter Stafford Wilson, Nayara Lopes (Myrtha), Mayara Pineiro (Giselle), Zecheng Liang (Count Albrecht), and Arian Molina Soca (Hilarion) and The Pennsylvania Ballet Corps de Ballet take their bows.
Curtain call for Mayara Pineiro and Zecheng Liang.

Photographs by Annie Watt (Budapest Orchestra)

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