Queens-based conductor to host classical music concert at a Bayside church

AL, Brooklyn Philharmonic,03
Photos courtesy of Arkady Leytush

A Bayside church will play host to an evening of classical music this weekend, performed by renowned New York-based Sinfonietta Concertante Chamber Orchestra.

On Sunday, Nov. 17, the orchestra, led by its founder and conductor Arkady Leytush and accompanied by soprano Michelle Trovato will present the “Soprano & Strings” concert at All Saints Episcopal Church. The program features popular classical pieces from world-class composers like Felix Mendelssohn, George Frideric Handel, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Giacomo Puccini.

For the past four years, Leytush has served as the church’s organist and choirmaster and offered to put on a classical music concert for the community. When putting together the performance roster, the Rego Park resident said that he had gotten a sense of the “musical education and knowledge” that people have and decided to choose pieces everyone could enjoy.

“I decided to put the ‘light’ masterpieces from the classical repertoire. I’m not talking about any symphonies, which is kind of the ‘high genre’ in academic classical music,” said Leytush. “I mixed this music with some contemporary pieces because I would like to offer the audience some kind of different style of music.”

He chose the award-winning Trovato as the featured soprano vocalist for the upcoming concert. The soprano has been recognized by such entities as the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, the International Festival Society and the Liederkranz Foundation.

“She is an incredible soloist [and] she has a big musician’s heart. She expresses herself tremendously and of course, her voice is an instrument,” said Leytush, who compared her voice to a Stradivarius violin.

Also on the roster are two World Premieres written by Leytush. The pieces are entitled “Romance in Russian Style” and “Tango Refugee”, which both serve as an homage to his home in Russia and his journey immigrating to the United States.

“The name of the [first] piece is ‘Romance in Russian Style’ because I originally came from Russia and this is my country I love,” he said.

Leytush’s career began in Russia at the young age of five. Though his parents were not professional musicians, he shared that his father was a “music lover” and played the accordion. His uncles and grandmother also played the violin.

At that time, his father bought him a small, upright piano with five octaves, which he said inspired him to try to play music by ear.

Soprano, Michelle Trovato

“I surprised and shocked them by the compositions I played, not [with] one finger, like little children do, but with both hands,” Leytush said.

Upon seeing his natural abilities, his family enrolled him in music school. He recalls being a bad student and dreaded the rigid lessons with repetitive piano scales and arpeggios. Instead, he preferred composing his own pieces.

“In my thought, the music is a kind of present which we usually have from God and I believe music itself is the shortest breach to God. As soon as you start to play music, if you do it from your heart, you immediately connect to this spiritual level,” Leytush said.

At 10 years old, his music teacher met with his parents and said that if Leytush did not improve as a student, she would be forced to “fire” him. Following the meeting, his father came to him and said they would have to sell the piano if he did not enjoy taking lessons.

“Early in the morning, I knocked on my parents’ bedroom door and with tears, I said ‘don’t sell the piano.'”

He subsequently earned his bachelor’s degree in piano and as a choirmaster and attended two music conservatories, earning degrees as a choirmaster and symphony opera conducting. He said that few people pursued these types of careers in Russia due to its rigorous training and the limited spots in schools.

Leytush traveled around Russia working as an opera and symphony conductor but felt the effects of the Soviet Union at the time. Eventually, he decided to immigrate to the United States with his wife and three children and start his entire career over.

“It’s a big change for any musician who gets [to a] high level in their career,” Leytush said.

For the first five years, Leytush resident took any job to feed his family but soon began attending conductor’s workshops. He slowly began to build up his career in the states and got the opportunity to conduct the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, a turning point in his American career.

Since the 1980s, Leytush has found worldwide success as a conductor, directing orchestras in Russia, Brazil, Ukraine, Israel, Bulgaira, Latvia and the United States. Critics have described him as“a conductor in the grand Russian tradition.”

The “Soprano & Strings” concert will take place at All Saints Episcopal Church (214-35 40th Ave.) on Sunday, Nov. 17 at 4 p.m. Tickets are $20 for general admission, $15 for students and $10 for children. For more information visit allstaintsepiscopalbayside.org or call 718-229-5631.