Moving Mariposa Tunes

By Tim Buckley   |   November 21, 2023
Frank Huang performs at Hahn Hall on November 20 (photo by Chris Lee)

Violinist Frank Huang is deep into his ninth year as concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, but the joys of performing as part of much smaller ensembles has never strayed far from his heart.

“Before I got into the orchestra world, I was pursuing life as a quartet player,” shared Huang, who was the first violinist in the Grammy-winning Ying Quartet and co-founded the New York Philharmonic String Quartet in 2016. “I’ve always thought that the intimacy and the ability to quickly change characters and be spontaneous and flexible is incredibly important in music making. “My philosophy on orchestra playing stems from that chamber music approach, where there’s no inherently right or wrong way to play any particular piece or passage. I’ve tried to bring that at least to the string section of the philharmonic, the ability to respond to whatever the conductor is asking or whatever your colleagues are doing with the awareness and reaction as if you were in a small group like a quartet.”

Huang won’t have any challenges with creating intimacy and responsiveness when he returns to the Music Academy, where he was a fellow for two “glorious” summers at the end of the 1990s, for the first time since the NY Phil played the massive concert at SBCC’s stadium in 2018. He’ll share the Hahn Hall stage on November 20 for the closing concert in the 2023 Mariposa series with pianist Natasha Kislenko, the MA alum who is a longtime teaching artist at the Academy and at UCSB. 

The pair will be playing a duo program – a rarity for Huang nowadays – that features Beethoven’s “Spring” sonata as well as Pablo de Sarasate’s “Zigeunerweisen,” Clara Schumann’s “Three Romances,” and Saint-Saëns’ “Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28.” 

“It’s fantastic music – beautiful and flashy, good quality entertainment,” Huang said. “The Rondo is one of the crown jewel showpieces of the violin repertoire, but they’re all very fun to play and very enjoyable to listen to.” 

But whether it’s huge symphonies or solo sonatas, Huang has the same approach. 

“My hope is that a few people will really be moved, that the music reaches a few people in a very deep and meaningful way.”

Classical Corner: Premier Pianists Perform

Longtime CAMA favorite Stephen Hough – who in 2001 became the first performer of classical music to be awarded a MacArthur Fellowship (“Genius Grant”) – returns to CAMA’s Masterseries for his fifth appearance since 2005. Sir Stephen was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2022 on the strength of his distinguished international career as a pianist augmented by his work as a composer, writer, and painter. His November 16 recital at the Lobero includes works by Mompou, Scriabin, Debussy, and Liszt as well as Hough’s own “Partita.”Visit

Liszt isn’t on the program at the following evening’s concert with Grammy-Award winning pianist Daniil Trifonov, but a collection of the composer’s works earned Trifonov the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Solo Album in 2018 for Transcendental. The Russian virtuoso will perform an ambitious program at Campbell Hall on November 17 that pairs two 18th century works – Rameau’s “Suite in A Minor” (1727) and Mozart’s “Sonata No. 12 in F Major” (1781-1783) – with two from the 19th century in Beethoven’s technically demanding “Hammerklavier” sonata (1818) and Mendelssohn’s “Variations Sérieuses” (1841). Details at 

Celebrated local pianist Robert Cassidy, who teaches at the Music Academy during the non-summer months, is also the Artistic Director of the Santa Ynez Valley Concert Series in Los Olivos. Cassidy has booked himself for the next series concert along with baritone Ben Lowe, his partner in a 2022 recording of Franz Schubert’s “Die Wintereisse,” which the pair will perform live on November 19 and at St. Mark’s in-the-Valley. Visit


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