By Bill Parry
The legacy of one of the borough’s foremost cultural figures was celebrated Sunday with a special tribute performance by the Queens Symphony Orchestra. Maestro David Katz, who founded the QSO in 1953, was remembered before a sold-out crowd at the LeFrak Concert Hall, part of the Kupferberg Center for the Arts at Queens College.
“This is a world-class arts organization and I hope somewhere David Katz is taking a bow for what he accomplished here,” said Edmond Coller, a member of the QSO board of directors. “Creating this orchestra in 1953 as amateurs and nurturing it into a professional outfit was a most extraordinary gift to Queens. I watched him do it with his talent and with his standards and with his enthusiasm and we are committed to expanding his vision and his legacy.”
Katz’s daughter Melinda, the current borough president, figured prominently at the start of the program, which included a world premiere by two-time Pulitzer Prize nominated composer Avrohom Leichtling and a performance of Mozart’s “Sinfonia Concertante” by Alexander Mishnaevski and Mark Peskanov.
Arias from Mozart, Rossini and Verdi, including selections from “Rigoletto,” were presented as well as a performance by former celebrity cantor Avi Albrecht. But first, Melinda Katz remembered her father, who died of cancer at 62 at his Forest Hills home in 1987, and her mother Jeanne, who served as the orchestra’s executive director until she died in 1969.
“I am excited at the great lengths this orchestra has gone and I thank you all for being here,” Katz said. “Queens is popping, moving and shaking and people want to live here, people want to make money here. My parents believed that for the borough to thrive you wouldn’t have to go over a bridge or through a tunnel to be exposed to the arts, to access a world-class orchestra, the finest concerts and classical education.”
Under the direction of guest Maestro Elli Jaffe, the music director of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and the honorary foreign conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra, the QSO performed two songs with the borough president singing, including “On my Own” from Les Miserables.
“There is a reason I asked to go first,” Katz told the crowd. “You don’t ever want to follow great artists.”
After her segment had ended and the rest of the program began, Katz admitted backstage that she had felt some butterflies performing.
“The minute you don’t feel nervous is when you should give up,” she said. “This was great. It’s like home for me having grown up here, so it was very nice. My parents started these great cultural institutions and as an advocate for the arts I want to keep their legacy going.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr