September 20, 2021

Topanga Symphony: Musical Expressions of Inspiration



Topanga Symphony: Musical Expressions of Inspiration

From left, composer Barry Brisk, solo violinist Goeun Shin and Music Director of the Topanga Symphony Jerome Kessler after the successful concert at the Topanga Community House on Sunday, March 9.

At the March concert of the 31st season of the Topanga Symphony, the new red velvet curtains adorning the Topanga Community House stage elegantly framed the Topanga Symphony musicians, conductor Jerome Kessler, composer Barry Brisk and solo violinist Goeun Shin.

The many dedicated musicians, led by Concertmaster Rebecca Rutkowski, sounded even more beautiful than usual. The original work, “Serenade for Orchestra,” composed and conducted by maestro Barry Brisk was an inspired success. The virtuoso performance of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto by Goeun Shin filled the room with expressions of musical elegance.

The concert began with the familiar melodies of Mozart’s “Symphony #5”, classical comfort food for the ears. The undeniable master of classical music, Mozart dishes up love in the form of melodies that were expertly interpreted by the talented musicians, among them oboeist, Margreet Ray, clarinetist Jim Stanley and bassoonist Michael Sandler.

From the sophisticated and civilized Menuetto to the furious and exciting Presto, Mozart’s music was played with precision and grace.

Music Director of the Topanga Symphony since it began in 1982, Jerome Kessler introduced the next conductor with the warmth and familiarity of a long-time friend, “My esteemed colleague Barry Brisk.”

The “Serenade for Orchestra” is a collection of six short pieces, each evoking a clear sense of purpose and expression.

With the first downbeat, the listener was aware that the music emoting from the composer played through the musicians is far beyond the traditional classical genre. The first movement called “Quick” is reminiscent of Gershwin in its modern intervals and harmonies. The piece continues with “Lively,” the sound of happiness skipping down the road, and then moves to a tension in the form of dissonance and the sliding glissando from the violins. It then finishes with the playfulness of the sound of insects flying about in the open air.

“Aggressive” allows the accomplished woodwinds and brass to explore the internal emotions of the composer. He ends the section with an unexpected abruptness.

Brisk deviates from the traditional harmonies of classical music to another place. As the audience absorbs the music, they begin to understand that they are peering inside the head of the complicated composer. He’s in command of an orchestra sound and he’s pushing the boundaries of what we expect. Using techniques such as a “snap” of the strings and the unique sound of the temple blocks, “Solitude” is a mixture of sweet legato and the ringing out of the massive strings of the bass and cello. “Finale” brings to culmination all of the techniques of a modern classical music piece in a way similar to how Picasso’s modern painting techniques changed our perception of fine art. Brisk presented a brilliant new perception of classical music melodies that is joyful, playful and sophisticated.


Topanga Symphony: Musical Expressions of Inspiration

Soloist Goeun Shin gave a virtuoso performance of Sibeliusí Violin Concerto in Topanga on March 9.

After intermission, violin soloist Goeun Shin, attired in a long purple dress, walked onto the stage with confidence and a serious expression of calm and ease. The composer, Jean Sibelius, was a violinist and this is his only violin concerto.

“Violin Concerto Opus 47” begins with soft muted violins and the youthful, exquisitely clear tone of Shin’s violin brings to life the dramatic and passionate piece with an expertly virtuosic performance. Playing from memory, the long piece of music is evidence that Shin is on the stage to give the audience her masterful interpretation of the music. She saved her best for the audience and delivered beautifully on the presentation of a love for the violin that was possessed by the composer, performer and the audience, and heard by all listeners in the international language of music.

The Topanga Symphony continues to present three free concerts a year because of the love of classical music and the generous and inspired support from the musicians, the Topanga Community Club, Zev Yaroslavsky, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and community members who donate to the Friends of the Topanga Symphony. The Topanga Symphony presents free concerts to the public even when president Arthur Mintz announces, “Free concerts are not free.”

The next Topanga Symphony performance will be held on Sunday August 24.


The First Annual Fundraiser and Silent Auction for the Topanga Symphony will be held on Sunday, May 4, from 2 to 5 p.m. at an estate in Topanga. The event will feature chamber music by Brahms, Bazelaire and Lutoslawski. Performing artists will include clarinetist Jim Stanley, pianist Theodora Primes and cellist Jerome Kessler. Tickets for the fundraiser are $60 each and can be purchased by contacting Rebecca Catterall at; or (310) 455-2720. Seating is limited.