The Musical Gourmet

Unexpected pleasures

By Joseph Gold, food and music reviewer for the Piedmont Post

There is nothing like an unexpected pleasure. I had just that on March 31 at the Fremont Symphony concert. This orchestra has gone through a number of upheavals in the past few years. There were numerous changes of conductors, no regular place to play, and one disastrous impediment that was almost the coup de grace. Through it all, the audience remained faithful. Kudos to them.

All that is in the past. As anyone in business knows, success must start at the top. New conductor Jung-Ho Pak is just what the Fremont Symphony needed. What an inspiration he is.

As the Russian saying goes: “The face sells the goods." The Fremont Symphony plays in a new hall. James Logan Center for the Performing Arts was decorated in festive style with red festooned curtains, and the stylized Ionic columns were highlighted with gorgeous bouquets of flowers. The stage was a feast for the eyes, and the audience was immediately prepared for a beautiful concert. The orchestra was smartly dressed--none of that pit black sloppiness so common these days. As the great violinist Jascha Heifetz always said: “If you look good, you play good. “ And they did.

Conductor Jung-Ho Pak is expert in many areas. He is a charming and informative spokesman, just what is needed to encourage a faithful audience. In addition he knows how to select repertoire that is both challenging for the orchestra and attractive to the audience. And finally, Pak leads the orchestra in a way that they perform to the highest standards. The word “inspired" comes to mind.

There was a hint of Hollywood in the program. Pak knows what he’s doing, and explains it all before each piece. The connections are meaningful. Borodin’s Polovetsian Dance Number 17 opened the concert. Its theme was once a pop song. Then Russian-born pianist Lisa Smirnova essayed Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini giving proof of high-level artistic playing. She has a beautiful tone, round, resonant and never percussive. Her performance proves, once again, that the less the performer moves around, the more control he or she will have. The orchestra played with utmost sensitivity. Pak’s accompaniment fit like a glove.

Leonard Bernstein’s centenary continues to be celebrated, this time with selections from West Side Story. Nino Rota’s famous theme from Romeo and Juliet featured an elegant solo from Tom Nugent on the English horn. The concert concluded with a colorful and virtuoso performance of Tchaikovsky’s take on Romeo and Juliet. The Fremont Symphony rose to the occasion in inspired fashion. The impression is one of an experienced orchestra that plays together over a long season. They have a unified tone, crisp articulation, and crackling precision. All this made the story of Romeo and Juliet come alive. Many solos should be mentioned. Carole Klein played the trumpet solos with extreme clarity, technique and expression. As personnel manager, she has formed a crackerjack ensemble. The audience loved every bit of it and erupted with applause. Bravi to all.

(Piedmont violinist Joseph Gold performs internationally when not writing food and music reviews.)


An ongoing list of the wonderful support from this local powerhouse newspaper:

October 16, 2018: 2018-19 Season Opener

November 17, 2015: Pianist Jon Nakamatsu in Recital

Fremont Symphony Season Opener Displays Diversity

September 28, 2015

By David Bratman, San Francisco Classical Voice (SFCV)

The Fremont Symphony Orchestra began its season on Saturday, September 26, with a sparkling, imaginative, even exotic program. Jung-Ho Pak guest conducted a concert of six works that included two by East Asian composers, as well as an unusual work of a different kind: a 20th-century organ concerto. The concert was held at the symphony’s current home, the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church near the Fremont Hub.

Pak, an American of Korean ancestry, is possibly best remembered here for his stints directing student orchestras at UC Berkeley and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in the 1990s. He gave lucid, descriptive introductions from the podium for each work.

Read more >

Fremont Symphony Flourishes With Help From The Community

June 30, 2015

By Mark Macnamara, San Francisco Classical Voice (SFCV)

Fremont is 45 miles southeast of San Francisco, but on a Steinberg map, with Market Street in the foreground, Fremont would be at the fringe of the known world.

Fremont has become a spillover community from Silicon Valley, in all senses. The population is about 220,000; many are software engineers. Average income is about $114,000 a year. The town also has a 51-year-old symphony, which is flourishing, despite its past troubles attracting an audience.

Read more>