Reno Philharmic

Beginning in 1998, Barry Jekowsky spent a decade as Music Director of the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra. Under his leadership the Philharmonic became the largest performing arts organization in Northern Nevada and Northeastern California, performing for over 32,000 people a year.  It also offered a vital introduction to music for 35,000 students annually through its in-school visits, Young peoples Concerts and after-school strings program for underprivileged and at-risk children.

Shortly after Jekowsky's arrival, the Philharmonic was able to double the number of subscription performances and add a second Youth Orchestra.  Throughout the decade, ticket sales nearly doubled, allowing the orchestra to expand its programing and end each season with a cash surplus.

The Reno News & Review named Jekowsky to its list of "101 Who Mattered," noting: "One of Reno's most beloved conductors, Jekowsky has used his talent and position to encourage young people's involvement in music, expanding the Youth Symphony Orchestra to two full orchestras and also helping to create the Discover Music Program and Young Peoples Concerts."

Among the annual traditions introduced under his direction was the hugely-popular Rhythm and Rawhide Benefit Concert, a foot-stomping, crowd-pleasing event brimming with humor and audience interaction. Created by Jekowsky in 2003, this unique program is an exploration of the Great Western "Buckaroo" tradition through film scores, traditional and original orchestrations, cowboy music and poetry.  As well, the "Spirit of the Seasons"  holiday spectaculars created by Jekowsky, featuring such icons as Toni Tennille, Ice Skaters, Chinese Acrobats, Ballroom Dancers, Slot Machine Concerto, Aerial Silk Acrobats, Gymnasts and Magicians, are now a Reno tradition and one of the most successful events of the year. Maestro Jekowsky also developed a number of successful Summer Pops concerts around Reno and the Lake Tahoe area, including "Pops on the River," "Symphony on the Green" and "Broadway on the Beach."

                      The Reno Years In Media Quotes
                                                                   Jack Neal's Nevada Events and Reviews

It’s the kind of grand-plan music Jekowsky was born to lead. And lead it he does for a virtuoso performance of power and sensitivity that mines Orff’s exotic work for every measure of its majesty, beauty – and quirkiness.
It’s with pleasure for an orchestra left in fabulous condition, and regret for not having the continuing presence of Barry Jekowsky to continue his exceptional leadership, that those who love the Reno Philharmonic say goodbye to this maestro. His decade has been a triumphant one for the Reno Philharmonic.

On Sunday (4/27/08), the Reno Philharmonic played the first of its last two concerts under the leadership of conductor Barry Jekowsky. Saying goodbye is never easy. Saying goodbye to someone who has been as successful at moving the orchestra to a higher realm of performance and public acceptance, as Jekowsky has, is even harder.

The drama of his beautifully performed last program of Aaron Copland’s plaintive and lovely “Appalachian Spring,” and Carl Orff’s gargantuan (nearly 300 musicians) “Carmina Burana,” is the stuff of memorable theater. So is the video tribute to the maestro including testimonials from Reno Mayor Bob Cashell, violinist Marilyn Sevilla, and Reno Philharmonic Board member Jim Kidder.

A protégé of Leonard Bernstein, Jekowsky takes an intensely physical approach to conducting. As with Bernstein’s eternal optimism and the Tchaikovsky’s theme of “turn not to sorrow,” Jekowsky taps into the work’s grand design moving from the symphony’s solemn opening to a triumphant finale that hails humanity’s perseverance over Fate. Jekowsky’s is an emotional approach. There are no dull moments.

Not irresistible enough for maestro who pulled out all stops for a very heated, very fast, Russian Sailors Dance encore. Not to be outdone, the sold-out crowd got its exercise with one standing ovation after another.

Bravo for the pursuit of excellence through the irresistible.

A formidable accompanist, Jekowsky commanded his forces in a glued-to-every-turn collaboration that was as exciting as it was eloquent.
In his final season as conductor of the Reno Philharmonic, Barry Jekowsky is pulling out all stops and Sunday’s (10/21/07) near capacity audience loved every moment (three standing ovations), including the encore of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance No. 8. It was a fitting coda to the orchestra’s majestic performance of Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony.

Jekowsky’s dramatic sound-painting approach to music making takes on a decidedly impressionistic bent for Ravel’s ravishing “Daphnis et Chloe.” Lush without mess, dynamic without overstatement, Jekowsky’s “Daphnis et Chloe” is gorgeous and haunting. He elicits pastel coloration out of the orchestra and the orchestra responds with elegance and clarity. Jekowsky’s and the orchestra’s is a translucent performance of refinement and grace.

Jekowsky studied conducting with Leonard Bernstein, which gives the Jekowsky approach to Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story” a special tie to what makes this robust American music tick. And with Jekowsky it ticks like a time bomb, on edge constantly just waiting for the magnificent orchestral eruptions that make these dances so dramatic. When Bernstein was on the money, he was hellfire with an orchestra. So is Jekowsky, and he’s clearly on the money with these dances.

There is an emotional directness about the dances Jekowsky captures to perfection. The rhythmic propulsion – backed by virtuoso percussion (bravo), the exuberant use of syncopation, the unabashed jazziness of the writing, plus the Coplandesque textures of the quieter, more lyric moments that are so American - as is this conductor and this orchestra – make the Reno Philharmonic’s reading of the Symphonic Dances from one of America’s most explosive musicals, brilliantly extroverted and irresistible.

The collaboration of Jekowsky, orchestra and Ellington nurtured nothing less than a rhythmically sizzling, and a melodically rapturous, outing with Ellington's excursion into sophisticated symphonic swing.

Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 3, "The Scottish," received one of Jekowsky's impassioned presentations that are always on the correct side of irresistible. Opening with a restrained Haydnesque slow introduction the first movement erupts into a love affair with the symphony's sprawling landscape that sets the stage for the kind of rapturous mood kinetic conductors love to encourage.

Jekowsky provides a most impressive reading. The orchestra is responsive to its conductor's demands - lush strings, sprightly woodwinds, robust brasses and shrewdly modulated kettledrums - making this rendition of Mendelssohn's Scotch Symphony yet another bright feather in the Reno Philharmonic's hat of hits.

Jekowsky leads an incisive performance with cool precision and blistering subjectivity. The orchestra rises nicely to the occasion for a flawlessly paced presentation full of operatic lyricism and architectural insight. Jekowsky's is a powerful musical exploration of a work loaded with explorable utterances. How exciting to hear such a definitive performance here.

For those of us privileged to hear the Reno Philharmonic on a regular basis, the fine work of the orchestra's departing maestro, Barry Jekowsky, is a time of sadness over his decision to leave and a time of thanksgiving for the superb orchestra he leaves as his legacy - and the equally superb concerts he will have provided here for a full decade once his departure (after next season) becomes a reality.

The warm reception given Barry Jekowsky at Sunday's matinee concert (11/19/06), the first concert after Jekowsky's announcement he was leaving, is an indication of the strong public support for the Reno Philharmonic and the strides it's made under Jekowsky's leadership. He will be missed and huge chunks of the public know it.
The concert was yet another triumph for conductor and orchestra. Opening with Carl Nielsen's exotic Aladdin Suite, and closing with Beethoven's sublime and enormously popular Symphony No. 6, the "Pastoral," with a vivacious presentation of Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Cellos and Orchestra featuring cellists John and Peter Lenz, the concert was a popular and artistic symphonic hit.

With his Symphony No. 1 Brahms became the greatest writer of symphonies since Beethoven. His Symphony No. 1 is of epic proportions. The first movement has a restlessness, a dramatic struggle, and an intensity none of which were missed in the penetrating, full-throttle interpretation Jekowsky envisioned and the orchestra provided.
The second movement is poetic in its sublime beauty and simplicity. Both affecting ecstasy and deep-felt introspection make the movement and its presentation by the Reno Philharmonic one of the great performance moments of Jekowsky’s tenure here. The third movement is graceful, light and buoyant. The fourth – an exultant song of joy with a breathless rush to its conclusion and into memory as one of the wonders of symphonic literature and one of the Reno Philharmonic’s most memorable, lushly romantic performances

The challenge with this dramatic music is to keep its theatricality in perspective; to balance orchestral colors and sonorites and let the music speak for itself rather than through excesses from the podium. Jekowsky keeps the faith with Mahler s intentions while having a grand time allowing those intentions to shine through. The orchestra responds to its maestro s virtuoso conducting with a virtuoso performance of its own for a presentation of uncommon insight and passion. The strings are luxuriant, the woodwinds translucent, the brasses burnished, the percussion crisp and supportive. It may be, as some critics claim, that the Mahler is overdone. If it is overdone, and for me it isn't, it's exciting to hear such overdone things done in such a grand manner.

Jekowsky provides Poulenc's luminous score with a radiantly luminous performance. The two choirs are musically wonderfully well groomed and sing all that is demanded of them fastidiously and with love. Bravi to both choirs and their directors. Bravo also to Jekowsky who illicits a vivid palette of colors from chorus and orchestra. Under his guidance the Poulenc is as sublime and impressive as the Mahler is impressive and powerful.

In the gifted hands of a no nonsense, thoroughly dedicated artist such as Ms. Salerno-Sonnenberg it's as moving to experience as it's exciting to hear.
Conductor Barry Jekowsky is a most sensitive collaborator, as is the orchestra. The Shostakovich concerto, with the musical demands and the free-wheeling phrasing those demands force a violinist to make, is a supreme challenge and the Reno Philharmonic under the skillful baton of its conductor meets the challenge with an impressive flexibility and virtuosity.

Obviously Maestro Jekowsky has made a study of Beethoven's writing by poring over the composer's sketches and finished scores. 

The interpretive powers of Jekowsky cannot be overestimated. A splendid concert without splendid leadership is not possible. Jekowsky consistently provides the intuitive musicanship and skilled leadership that turns a keen sense of what's right into a listening experience that engages both the mind and the heart. Is there an American composer who touches both better than Aaron Copland? Is there an American conductor who touches both better than Barry Jekowsky? From this corner, both questions are rhetorical to be sure.

With Brahms's dense orchestrations it takes a conductor who knows how to throw light on dark places and make them shine to create a profound and enduring reading. Jekowsky has that kind of talent. His Brahms is full of shining places that radiate through the elaborate architecture on which Brahms constructs his eloquence. Jekowsky, and the exceptional orchestra the Reno Philharmonic has become under his guidance, get to the heart of the matter for a performance that flows from beginning to end with grace and grandeur.

 If Eugene Ormandy learned to conduct Rachmaninoff at the feet of the composer, Barry Jekowsky must be in touch with Rachmaninoff and Ormandy by osmosis.

Jekowsky shapes the dances as Rachmaninoff, when conducting, would have shaped them. The dances have a progression from lushness to dispair, from longing to exhilaration and Jekowsky misses nothing nor is anything over done. The performance builds slowly and methodically to its climax in the middle of the third movement. The deliberate pacing draws out orchestral coloration and textures creating brilliant flashes of instrumentation - some morose, others tender, still others triumphant. Peter Epstein's melancholy alto saxophone sounds in the second movement fits in perfectly with Jekowsky's and the orchestra's exacting attention to tonal shadings and color

 It's still hard to get used to, but attending a Reno Philharmonic concert under the baton of Barry Jekowsky who is just completing his sixth season, not only seems as exciting as it must be in New York, London or San Francisco - it is.

Under Jekowski's leadership the Reno Philharmonic has taken on a lush, voluptuous sound that's awash in vivid hues and dramatic contrasts. The strings, headed by concertmaster Philip Ruder, play vibrantly with a sheen similar to what one associates with the heyday of Stokowski's Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. The woodwinds are sprinkled with first-class artists (clarinetist David Ehrke, oboist Andrea Lenz, flutist Mary Miller, to name but three) and play as a very special ensemble. The brasses are robust, quite brilliant, but never overpower. The percussion choir plays with a consistent sensitivity that perfectly punctuates whatever is being played.

Jekowsky's is a striking approach. The conductor is a rich colorist which always gives the orchestra a kind of Cecil B. DeMille technicolor richness of sound. Beyond that, the DeMille analogy is meant to be a compliment (I adore voluptuous symphonic sounds), Jekowsky gives a very individualistic performance to the epochal scope and sweepingly beautiful thematic strains of this legendary composer.
The drama of Beethoven's symphonies is always high on any intense listener's list of expectations. Jekowsky has the measure of the Seventh's music and drives it hard, particularly in the driving intensity of the outer two movements. Since there is no real slow movement in the Seventh - the second movement is an allegretto - Jekowsky's driving pace hits its mark. It intensifies the rhythmic characteristics of the music, described by Wagner as being "the apotheosis of the dance."

Jekowsky's take on Dvorak's Symphony No. 6 in D major is another of the conductor's miracles of interpretation. There is a genuine sense of organic growth as the first movement plays through Dvorak's daliances with Brahmsian power and lyricism. Jekowsky moves all forces, his and Dvorak's, with an enviable determination that brings the movement to an unusually understated, yet dynamic conclusion. The second movement's nocturnelike serenity displays a sense of quiet, yet profound growth in Dvorak's compositional maturity that Jekowsky nudges along with the most subtle brush strokes of phrasing. The third movement is a Czech specialty, the Furiant, and it's driven at a breakneck recklessness that's breathtaking. The finale moves inexorably to its brilliant conclusion without sounding hurried that provides a rush of excitement from within. Put in the most direct of terms, Jekowsky's and the orchestra's performance of the Dvorak is formidable and first-rate in every way.

Much to his credit as he begins his sixth season at the helm of the Reno Philharmonic, conductor Barry Jekowsky has not become comfortable as an old pair of shoes. Sunday's (9/21/2003) season opener at Reno's Pioneer Center was just as exciting and grand as anything this dashing maestro has presented since coming to Reno. A conductor not resting on laurels is very good news.

Expressive, bold and exciting all the way, the Reno Philharmonic finessed its way through Beethoven's Ninth Symphony for a performance of rare grandeur, poignancy and thrills. Bravissimo to all concerned, but most especially to the leadership of conductor Barry Jekowsky for his sensitive musicianship and the skills to mold the orchestra into his vision of what the Beethoven should be.
One of Jekowsky's major talents is his sense of theater, timing, coloration and delivery of phrases as mood-setting devices. With Jekowsky musical expression takes on a life of its own, as it does with this movement, in a dialogue of thematic utterances that express ideas transparently, something that spoken speech almost never manages to do. The Adagio that follows is one of the noblest statements in music. Reflective and melancholy, Jekowsky taps into the movement's compassion for a deeply felt, seamless reading.

In what could be called the orchestra's ultimate can-you-top-this season conductor Barry Jekowsky once again pulled out all stops for a crowd-pleasing program that also just happened to be wonderfully brought off. When sensationally played, Gustav Holst's "The Planets" and Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor simply sweep concertgoers off their feet and there were lots of swept-off-their-feet concertgoers listening to lots of sensational music-making Sunday afternoon.

Mendelssohn's "Italian" Symphony is being given the kind of vibrant performance that only adds to its legendary reputation. Jekowsky's is a free-flowing, cut-loose reading, yet there is no hint of edge. The brasses are satiny, the strings play with an enviable sheen, the woodwinds dazzle, and the percussion anchor with an elasticity that allows conductorial shaping and molding in the most flamboyant (a plus), and subtle of ways. This is as good as Mendelssohn gets - an in-all-ways terrific performance.
Jekowsky's "excerpting" (presumably from the composer's own arrangements) of Prokofiev's magnificent "Romeo and Juliet" into a more cohesive storyline concert suite is the sort of thing entrepeneureal conductors do, when the door is opened by a composer's own bent for suite making (Prokofiev extracted two from his "Romeo and Juliet" score). Jekowsky's excerpting heightens the drama of Shakespeare's story of the star-crossed lovers.

Both Collard and Jekowsky raise the playing field in the Rachmaninoff to exhilarating heights. Their's is a noble, expressive and richly colored performance that restores faith in the intrinsic beauty and majesty of this overly-familiar, yet rightfully beloved concerto. It's all too easy to oversentimentalize Rachmaninoff's lush, lyric music, but Collard and Jekowsky never fall into that trap. The pianist grabs attention from the top with his effortless playing and complete command of the score's heroic grandeur. The conductor's accompaniment, so gloriously captured in rapture and detail by the orchestra, is a model of grace, refinement and edge-of-the-seat drama.

The star power of it all is nothing less than overwhelming. Collard is one of the most formidable international pianists in demand today. If Jekowsky's superb work in Reno is an example of his work elsewhere, and from what I read it is, he is a conductor destined for a great deal of international attention himself. It is a cause for celebration to have these two artists join forces with an orchestra that's playing in remarkably top form for this kind of volatile, fulfilling presentation. With Jekowsky drawing a sumptuous sound from his players and the dynamic Collard at the height of his considerable powers, the results are nothing short of electrifying.

Throughout, the orchestra's playing is brilliant, colorful, sparkling and incandescent. Jekowsky has inspired the orchestra's response by providing a leadership of unusual flexibility, deep humanity and an off-the-cuff spontaneity that propels the performance's careful preparation into the realm of impassioned, emotional statement. The Beethoven comes from a musically committed, adventurous frame of mind where tensions are always strongly maintained and the work's messages are always eloquently and powerfully conveyed.

The concert closed with Sibelius's monumental Symphony No. 2 in D Major. Jekowsky's approach is as epic driven as the composer's writing. But there's more to Jekowsky's approach than mere sweep and scope. He makes the most of the symphony's subtleties, like the interplay between the trumpet and flute solos in the second movement. The scherzo is both brash and tender, an invigorating interpretation. The lead-in to the finale is perfect as is the finale itself - big, robust and thrilling. At its best, Sibelius's second symphony has an overpowering impact. It's theatrical, emotional and punctuated with powerful climactic surges. That's a lot to say and Jekowsky and the Reno Philharmonic miss almost nothing in the retelling.

Jekowsky's "Scheherazade" is like one of those big, color-splashed 1950's Hollywood epics that purported to tell the Arabian Night's stories but actually used the stories as little more than a springboard to swashbuckling adventure. Enter master orchestrator Rimsky-Korsakov and dashing storyteller Jekowsky for a magic-carpet ride that is as sumptuous as Korsakov and dashing storyteller Jekowsky for a magic-carpet ride that is as sumptuous as it's exciting.

Barry Jekowsky is one of America's most inventive and thorough young conductors. Under his baton the Reno Philharmonic is always scrupulously prepared. Beyond care in preparation, he brings a verve and bravura to the concert hall that makes his performances alive and captivating.

Jekowsky's re-creations are - without exception - thrilling.

Whether in rehearsal or performance, Jekowsky seems to have everyone convinced that what they do musically while he's around is the most important event in the entire universe. A white-hot intensity permeates Jekowsky's work, not to mention a spirit of adventure and discovery.

And so the love affair between Reno symphony goers, Maestro Jekowsky's musical stylishness and spirit of adventure and the orchestra's exciting performances continues. Tuesday's capacity Pioneer Center audience loved, and rightfully so, every minute of what it heard.

Jekowsky's judiciously sculpted approach savored the confines of Copland's simplicity of style to build upon the work's nostalgia and poignancy for one increasingly powerful statement after another. There was no fuss, no extraneous conductorial nonsense; just lush strings, controlled, soaring brass, percussion at home with the work's tricky rhythmic diversities and woodwinds who adroitly managed Copland's astringent, yet gorgeous colorations.

It makes critics uncomfortable to like everything they hear (Am I losing my grip?), but that's what happened Tuesday night (9/28/99) at the Pioneer Center as the orchestra played the opening concert of its 31st season before a capacity and enormously enthusiastic audience at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts. I'm also not inclined to swim upstream against a current of excitement, especially when it's so entirely deserved.

The after-intermission drama and presence of the Brahms did not allow for a letdown. Lyric, thick in a rhapsodically Brahmsian way and with a reserved grandeur, Jekowsky led the orchestra into a world of rapture that was as good as German Romanticism gets. As sculpted and shaped by Jekowsky the Brahms was a study in how beautiful this translucent symphony can be, when it's honed in but never inhibited.

As a Bernstein protege who's very much his own person, Jekowsky combines passion with measured reason and an always exquisite sense of line. The result on Tuesday night? A combustible, yet controlled evening of performances, including Bernstein's "Chichester Psalms," that swept both the music and the capacity audience into the stratosphere of rapture.

But most of all there was Jekowsky wringing emotion from every page, demanding the best and getting the best - a tastefully monumental reading of an infectiously monumental score.

The collaboration between Mr. Nakai's exquisite work, the extensive teamwork and conducting skills of Mr. Jekowsky and the responsiveness of the Reno Philharmonic helped make the De Mars a sublime sensation of sensitive expression.

Barry Jekowsky, just beginning his seventh season - who knows how to get a shimmering Philadelphia sound out of the orchestra's strings. To make matters even better add to the mix for the orchestra's two season-opening concerts a superb guest artist, pianist Jean-Philippe Collard, who brings a dextrous French lyricism to Rachmaninoff's very Russian Second Concerto for Piano and Orchestra.
Sunday's (3/6/05) Reno Philharmonic concert, opening with Bernstein's brooding and dramatic Suite from "On the Waterfront" and closing with Mahler's sunny and sentimental Symphony No. 4 is nothing less than a marvelously alluring celebration of epic storytelling through music.

Conductor Barry Jekowsky and the well-groomed and gorgeously manicured Reno Philharmonic were in top form, providing both works with heartfelt and virtuosic interpretations that were as memorable as Brando's 1954 Academy award winning performance.

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