Sinfonietta brings music a lot closer to home

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By N. Clark Judd

Riverdalians love music, but they could live without the schlep to Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall. At least, that’s what Mark Mandarano, the founder of the Sinfonietta of Riverdale, is betting on.

A principal guest conductor for the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, Mr. Mandarano, who has lived in Riverdale for more than five years, created the little symphony, which features performers from the likes of the New York Philharmonic and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, to bring great classical music closer to home.

“I was looking around and I thought Riverdale is such a lovely community and there are so many sophisticated people here who probably love the arts,” Mr. Mandarano said. “There is probably room for something else exciting going on here.”

His theory will be put to the test when the Sinfonietta performs its first concert — including selections from Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Bernhard Sekles and Benjamin Britten — on Sunday, Jan. 25, at 2:30 p.m., at Riverdale Temple, 4545 Independence Ave.

Somewhere between a full orchestra and a chamber music group, in which only one artist plays each type of instrument, Mr. Mandarano’s group will assemble about 10 classical musicians to perform each piece.

“Once it gets past 10 players, [a symphony] really needs a conductor,” Mr. Mandarano said. “And I just think that’s a really interesting area in music where you get to hear every individual instrument clearly, but there’s a lot going on. It has a really full sound.”

His group includes musicians who have performed in Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center; Juilliard graduates; regular guests on classical albums; and collaborators with groups from the Lark Quartet to Bryan Adams and Bono.

For the musicians, Mr. Mandarano’s project is an opportunity to collaborate with friends.

“A lot of the other musicians I’ve worked with and work with on a regular basis,” said Danielle Farina, who joined the sinfonietta as a violist.

And classical music in a small space happens more often than a layperson might think, she added.

“Playing in churches, playing in temples, playing in sort of community centers or smaller venues and things like that are quite common,” Ms. Farina said. “I just played a concert for example on New Year’s Eve at St. Bartholomew’s … it’s an ideal venue for a chamber ensemble because it’s a more intimate venue. When you go and hear a symphony orchestra for example, it’s a big, big hall, it’s a different experience.”

Jeremy Kasman, the executive director of the sinfonietta’s host, Riverdale Temple, said his staff has been eager to host Mr. Mandarano’s ensemble since they finished negotiations about six months ago.

“We’ve never done anything like this to my knowledge. We’ve had concerts here, but we’ve never had a chamber orchestra. This will be, I think, the largest performing group that I’ve had here,” he said.

Their engagement in Riverdale so far extends to the January concert and another in May, where Mr. Mandarano will debut a previously unperformed piece by one of his mentors, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Czech composer Karel Husa.

“We have Wave Hill here,” Mr. Mandarano said. “People talk about why to live in Riverdale, we have Wave Hill, we have the Fieldston neighborhood and Van Cortlandt Park. We also have a lot of art happening here, including Riverdale Sinfonietta. I want that to be something people think of as an asset to their community.”

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