Press Article

By: Steve Smith

September 14, 2011

New York Times

Midway through a concert presented by Musicians for Harmony at Merkin Concert Hall on Sunday evening, Allegra Klein, the violinist and arts administrator who founded that organization after the Sept. 11 attacks, addressed the audience briefly. Among comments about the solemnity of the occasion and the mission of the group, one salient point went unspoken: Here was one of the few memorial events in New York that prominently featured artists of Middle Eastern heritage.

Also commemorating its own 10th anniversary, Musicians for Harmony rounded up musicians who aided its effort from the beginning. The Juilliard String Quartet opened with a rough-hewn but heartfelt rendition of Janacek’s String Quartet No. 1 (“Kreutzer Sonata”), featuring poised, eloquent playing by Joseph Lin, the ensemble’s new first violinist.

Kinan Azmeh, a lavishly talented, intensely soulful Syrian clarinetist, performed jazz-saturated original compositions with Dinuk Wijeratne, an exuberantly creative Sri Lankan pianist, who transformed his instrument into a drum, a zither and a scampering melodic partner. For one piece the two were joined by Kyle Sanna, an American guitarist, and Kojiro Umezaki, a Japanese shakuhachi player.

Alone, Mr. Umezaki played a turbulent, computer-enhanced soliloquy inspired by this year’s devastating Japanese earthquake: here a timely reminder of a recent instance in which nations overlooked their differences to unite in common cause. That notion was echoed in a rousing performance by the Lebanese oud and flute player Bassam Saba and the New York Arabic Orchestra, a melting-pot assemblage conjoined by the spirit of music.


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