What Critics Are Saying

America's Best Symphony Orchestra

America's Best Symphony Orchestra - Readers Digest

“Founded in 1986 by Juilliard-trained prodigy Barry Jekowsky, the California Symphony features works by American composers – and not just old, dead men – on every one of its programs.  Its Young American Composer-in-Residence program commissions works from top new talents who vie for three-year gigs.  Younger people, Jekowsky has learned, enjoy young composers – and like watching young musicians play. So the symphony gives pint-sized performers their first U.S. appearances – with prodigies like violinist Sarah Chang, who made her professional debut with the symphony, going on to stardom. The symphony’s been outgrowing its space and has begun dabbling in the Bay Area’s larger venues.  Proving that expanding audiences are sweet music indeed.”


"Jekowsky led a fleet, virtuosic, bracingly exciting performance with the National Symphony, one that sent us out into the night renewed."


“More excitement was generated in last night’s all-Bernstein programme than most of the Halle Concerts Society’s orchestra Promfest evenings so far.”


“Barry Jekowsky impressed with his no-nonsense approach, avoiding histrionics other than those already in the music, and the London Philharmonic played well for him. He can make things happen when the opportunities arise, as they frequently do in the Finale, but the quieter moments were good too – the dark chords on low strings that begin the Andante, for instance, were intriguingly coloured.”


“Guest conductor Barry Jekowsky led a Tchaikovsky Spectacular with authority, solidity and a buoyant podium manner… Years of mediocre – often uncaring – performances of the “1812” were forgotten in the [Pacific Symphony’s] highly-polished, dynamically-structured performance Jekowsky coaxed from the willing and spirited orchestra….Jekowsky proved an enlightened, sensitive collaborator.”


“The evening’s triumph came with a thrilling rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony.  Programming a warhorse like this can easily look like mere pandering.  Playing it the way the California Symphony did on Sunday – as a gripping, no-holds-barred testament of the soul in sound – serves as a reminder of why the warhorses matter.  I can’t remember the last time this orchestra has produced such a glorious, full-throated sound – the strings rich and burnished, the woodwinds and brass full of verve.  And Jekowsky led his forces with almost maniacal energy and control.”


“Might this be the disc [Lou Harrison: A Portrait] that gives the 80-year-old California composer the recognition he has long deserved? The recorded performances are solid, caring and comprehending thanks to singer/narrator AI Jarreau and the California Symphony under Barry Jekowsky (a name to watch).”


“Barry Jekowsky navigates Lou Harrison’s currents perfectly.”


“I must admit that I have never appreciated Lou Harrison’s music up to now.  Barry Jekowsky directs here performances of such heartfelt intensity that I won’t make the same mistake again.  Argo's portrait manages to depict all the key stages of  Harrison's career and Jekowsky's tender performance of Elegy, to the Memory of Calvin Simmons, moved me to tears.”


“In his 80th year, Lou Harrison is the dean of American composer – although sadly, not all of his work has found an outlet on disc.  This diverse, highly-accessible album is a great step in the right direction.  Let’s hope there’s more coming from conductor Barry Jekowsky, an ideal interpreter of Harrison’s beautiful music.”


“Jekowsky knows how to relate to a big audience as well as an orchestra.”


“Music director Barry Jekowsky…treats [his] subscribers time and again to well-planned and brilliantly executed programs.”


George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F and Ravel’s complete “Daphnis and Chloe” ballet…. “Whole orchestra responded to Jekowsky’s direction with resounding blue notes and precise, intricate rhythms.  The resident conductor’s close association with the orchestra was evident in their smooth interactions throughout the evening – for example, in the carefully calculated balances that made Ravel’s orchestration glow.”


“Sunday night’s concert was a sterling event, marked by unanimity of spirit and eloquence, high-powered musicianship….Jekowsky managed the difficult feat of keeping the reins on Rachmaninoff’s sprawling, colorful landscape while letting individual sections attain their own personality.  The central slow movement was particularly fine, with passages of haunting, quiet oratory framing the fast, boisterous middle section: the concluding Allegro reveled in the composer’s gift for splashy gesture and rhythmic vitality.”


“The glow of fireflies and the occasional bird-song chatter of a summer night at Wolf Trap didn’t inhibit the effect of the soaring, frosty timbres heard at the outset of Alexander Glazunov’s “The Seasons” (Op. 67), which commences with a vignette of winter… Jekowsky’s tack, lusty and swashbuckling, emphasized the music’s big gestures and broad accents, unleashing energy from all quarters of the NSO in a penetrating clamor of exuberance.”


“Under the direction of Barry Jekowsky, the California Symphony has never hesitated to venture beyond classical music’s tried and true.”


“Jekowsky’s visit is most likely to be remembered for the dynamic, sharply accented performance he obtained from the Richmond Symphony in Beethoven’s Second Symphony.


“The Riverside County Philharmonic sounded better Saturday than it ever has in the almost 30 years I have been following it. The strings were warm and sensuous, the woodwinds were delightfully precise, and the brass was powerful and accurate. Under the direction of guest conductor Barry Jekowsky, all of the sections meshed together seamlessly in the opening concert of the orchestra’s 49th season at Riverside’s Municipal Auditorium.”


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