Staten Island already had a gigantic Ferris wheel -- in 1893!

In the spirit of P.T. Barnum, Mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday announced plans to build the world's largest Ferris wheel next to the ferry terminal on Staten Island. The amusement, called the New York Wheel, will stand 84 feet higher than a similar Ferris wheel in Singapore and also nods towards the London Eye, a ride built in 1999 that quickly became a centerpiece of British tourism.

Obviously geared towards boosting tourism to Staten Island, the plan offers something for the residents of the borough in the form of a "retail outlet complex." With the ballpark home of the Staten Island Yankees and the recently redesigned ferry terminal, the new projects will radically alter the face of the St. George neighborhood.

(At right: A rendering of the new wheel, courtesy ABC.)

But the idea of a Ferris wheel drawing tourists to Staten Island isn't a new one. The very first Ferris wheel in the borough was constructed back in 1893, on the opposite shore in the old Midland Beach resort area.

Midland Beach and adjacent South Beach were Staten Island's answer to Coney Island and Rockaway Beach, back in the era before any of those amusement centers were officially a part of New York. The Staten Island resort area got its wheel the same year that George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. installed his most notable wheel -- and thus giving the amusement its name -- at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Staten Island's ride -- called an 'observation roundabout' -- was built by Ferris' rival William Somers after he was rejected a spot at the Chicago fair. It was probably similar to Somers over roundabouts built on Asbury Park and Rockaway Beach, of wooden construction, about 50 feet in diameter with approximately 16 passenger chambers. [Check out Norman Anderson's history of Ferris wheels for more information.)

Thanks to Ferris and the fame of the Chicago World's Fair, nobody was calling them roundabouts by the start of the 20th century. The Ferris wheel hovered over Midland's rows of bathing pavilions and beer gardens along the boardwalk and was joined by the Happyland amusement park in 1906.

The New York Tribune sang praises of the amusement in 1904: "If they [the young of all ages] desire pleasure with an element of excitement, [they] may venture a ride in the great Ferris wheel, from the summit of whose broad circle they may enjoy an excelled view out over the broad bay to the open sea."

The St. George Ferris Wheel is slated for completion in 2015. As for the old Midland Beach wheel, it appears to have been destroyed -- along with a great many other amusements -- in a devastating fire in 1924.

And by the way, Ferris' original wheel, the one that was at the Chicago World's Fair? There were actually plans to bring the wheel to Manhattan in 1894 and set it up -- on Broadway! Sadly, these plans fell through.

Pictures courtesy NYPL

Moving Right Along

Can you believe it's almost October?! I certainly cannot. We are a full month and more into school and moving at a very fast pace. Days are long but seem to get a little better everyday. I think it's because I am able to start my days with pumpkin spice lattes, wear riding boots and have football to look forward to on the weekends! 

Last weekend I headed to Raleigh Friday night to visit my old roommate. I was very surprised by the biker week that seemed to be going on downtown.. interesting to say the least. Saturday was time to put  on my purple and gold and head to Chapel Hill for the football game!! I met my parents as well as some friends there. I had the best time even though the score wasn't quite the best. (: 

We have another game this weekend against UTEP and I am beyond ready. It's been a month since we had a home football game!! 

Such a true statement.. 

School is something else. My kids are absolutely wonderful, non stop talking and all. (: 
This week we learned about community helpers and had a visit from a nurse, firefighter, truck driver, and police man! We got to tour an 18 wheeler (so fun) and tomorrow we are having a parade around school in our community helper costumes!! Fun fun!!

Tomorrow is jean day at school, payday, and it's Friday so I know I am going to have a great day. I hope yours is fabulous as well! 

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, September 2012)

Fabula Classica 2242 / *****

This marvellous anthology of historical piano recordings is devoted to the waltz, highlighting some of piano’s greatest names from ages past. It begins with the original version of Carl Maria von Weber’s Invitation to the Dance, a deceptively difficult piece than the music suggests, played with much insouciance by Artur Schnabel. Listen to how Rachmaninov himself approaches Chopin’s Three Waltzes Op.64, with inner voices revealed and none of the speed-mongering that modern pianists favour. There are many showpieces on display; Joseph Lhevinne’s teasing ease in the Strauss-Schulz-Evler Blue Danube, Arthur Rubinstein in his namesake Anton Rubinstein’s vertiginous Waltz-Fantasy, or Claudio Arrau’s imperious take on the Liszt Mephisto Waltz No.1, before he abandoned it forever.

There are some rarities which are all but forgotten, such as Saint-Saëns’s Study in a Form of a Waltz, from the incomparable Alfred Cortot on one his better days, Mischa Levitzki’s charming little Arabesque-Valsantefrom the composer’s own fingers, or Arensky’s Waltz in C major, balletic grace on two pianos by Harold Bauer and Ossip Gabrilowitsch. For its sheer simplicity, Percy Grainger’s take on Brahms’s Waltz No.15 (from Op.39) should not be missed. These recordings date mostly before 1940, so do not expect pristine sound. The performances are quite something else, and demand study by today’s piano students.  

BEETHOVEN Diabelli Variations
Harmonia Mundi 902901 / *****

There are many recordings of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations but this is only its second recording on the fortepiano, the modern piano’s soft-edged and mellow-toned forerunner. In 1819, the published Anton Diabelli invited fifty of Vienna’s musical fraternity to write a variation each on a banal little waltz theme of his. Beethoven obliged with 33 if his own, and his 1823 publication has become one of the cornerstones of the piano repertoire. But what of the others?

German fortepianist Andreas Staier selects ten which include the likes of Carl Czerny (technically adroit as expected), Johann Hummel (florid and fussy), Franz Xavier Mozart (Wolfgang Amadeus’s son sounding very busy), Schubert (a graceful number unsurprisingly in the minor key) and Liszt (who was 8-years-old but already a barnstorming virtuoso in the Beethovenian mould). Staier also adds a dramatic prelude of his own that links the others with the Beethoven set. In his magisterial account played on a fortepiano modelled upon Conrad Graf’s original, Staier also uses several exotic pedals in some of the variations. Try Variation No.23 to hear the Turkish effect of the janissary stop, which makes the entire instrument shake, rattle and roll. Not just a sly gimmick, but a reflection of the tastes and trends of the age. Delicious.

Day of Atonement indeed: The Yom Kippur riot of 1898

Hat stores on Division Street, below the elevated train and a bit west of the action in the article below. Picture is from around 1907 (NYPL

When I hear of riots in the Lower East Side during the late 19th century, my mind goes disgruntled newsies or agitated garment workers, rising up for fair wage and employment. Or maybe a vicious street gang like the Whyos primed to wreck havoc. I don't immediately think of the orthodox Jewish community.

But it was indeed dissatisfied members of this group that staged a bit of chaos on the corner of Canal and Division streets during Yom Kippur in 1898. According to the New York Sun, the violence centered around a Russian Jewish coffee house owned by the Herrick brothers at 141 Division Street, a popular gathering place for 'political spell-binders and labor agitators' with likely a more casual atmosphere than the many Jewish restaurants surrounding it and certainly popular with young men.

Here's an advertisement for Herrick's in a chess journal from 1904:

Even as sundown approached and traditional Jewish places closed their doors for the holiday, Herrick's cafe stayed open, with tables occupied with young men in apparent disregard for the custom of fasting. The article makes a point to label most offenders as 'American-born' and '16 to 18 years old' -- as in rebellious, with an implied lack of respect towards tradition.

The Herricks had actually planned this display of defiance, going so far as to advertise in an 'anarchistic' newspaper that they would remain open for the holiday. They were prepared for some opposition, certainly, but certainly not for what came next.

According to the Sun, at sight of the violation, angry orthodox mobbed the place, throwing stones and smashing the cafe windows.  The New York Times reports that 'several thousand Hebrews' soon arrived to protest in the surrounding streets. The police from the local Madison Street station were called to quell the violence and asked the proprietors to close their cafe for the evening.

But violence further escalated the following day, when one of the brothers reopened the cafe the next morning 'for customers, Jewish and Gentile, all day, at the usual prices'.

Fearing a repeat of the evening's disruptions, police cordoned off the street to no avail. When diners left the cafe this time, they were met by "several thousands* [who] gathered and threatened dire vengeance on those who would eat on the holy day."

Many offenders were chased down the street for fear of their lives. Eventually, the angry protesters even managed to storm the restaurant again where they "overturned tables, smashed dishes and threw crockery at the proprietors." One diner was doused in hot tea. Another diner, with his three friends, happened to be military and 'fired off a revolver to attract police', scattered the crowd in fear. Police did arrive, with clubs drawn.

Soon the violence spilled into the streets and devolved, like so many riots of this type, into fisticuffs among angry young men. By the end of the day, several rioters were taken into custody, and the neighborhood quickly returned to its peaceful celebration of the holiday.

As for Herrick's, well, the advertisement above is from 1904, so they obviously continued stirring up 'political spell-binders' and controversy in the neighborhood for many more years.

*Early news reports are never very good at estimating crowd numbers, so 'several thousands' could also mean 'several hundreds'. Given how crowded this neighborhood was in the 1890s, most could have simply been trying to figure out what was going on!

ALEXANDER SITKOVETSKY AND WU QIAN / Violin and Piano Recital / Review

with WU QIAN, Piano
Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Concert Hall
Friday (21 September 2012)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 24 September 2012 with the title "Watch and learn from up-and-comers".

Ones To Watch is an annual series at the Conservatory that showcases young artists who are rising stars in the universal musical firmament. This year’s offering was the London-based duo of Russian violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and Chinese pianist Wu Qian, who performed a demanding programme of sonatas, one that would not look out of place in Wigmore Hall.

If the name Sitkovetsky sounds familiar, that is because Alexander is the nephew of violinist Dmitry Sitkovetsky and grand-nephew of pianist Bella Davidovich, Russian virtuosos well-known from their many recordings. Much of the pedigree has rubbed on, evident in the blistering performance of Prokofiev’s First Violin Sonata in F minor. From its morose opening through to the rants and raves of the ironic finale, he displayed an astonishing range of colours and emotions. 

Allying faultless intonation with a voluminous tone, his control was one to admire, not least in the mysterious third movement, where the fine balance of both instruments playing pianissimo was kept on a knife-edge. Despite the undisguised dissonance and barbed aggression of much in the music, Prokofiev was not one to resist a good tune, and when these arose, the duo responded with grateful lyricism.

The 50-minute long first half began with the romantic ardour of Schumann’s First Violin Sonata in A minor. The psychological upheavals in the German’s music were well realised, contrasting plaintive singing in the slow movement with the furious perpetual motion of its frenzied finale.

The shorter second half was subject to less storm and stress. Mozart’s congenial A major Sonata (K.305) still had its fair share of highs, the limpid and sensitive pianism of Wu now taking the lead. The theme and variations, based on a graceful minuet, provided the work’s main focus and delight.

The recital proper closed with Grieg’s popular Third Violin Sonata, opening with a Beethovenian emphatic statement of intent in C minor. The force of personality both performers kept up the tension throughout, before the most heartrending of melodies defined the slow movement. A vigorous Norwegian dance dominated the last movement which provided a cheery and folksy end.

The applause-happy audience, which could not resist clapping inappropriately in between movements for much of the evening, was rewarded with two encores. Elgar’s Salut d’amour was given that most alluring of lilts, and Vittorio Monti’s gypsy Csardas saw Sitkovetsky applying some individual flourishes of his own, a touch of caprice to a most satisfying evening of great chamber music.


House Concert by the Singapore Mahler Society

I am not  a member of the Mahler Society of Singapore, but occasionally do get invited to the Society's events and house concerts by the young artists who perform. Its been almost two years since I last attended one of these highly informal and enjoyable gatherings of music lovers to hear some of Singapore's most talented young musicians. There is hardly any Mahler ever performed or discussed, especially in the absence of the Society's President Tan Chan Boon, but there is always good music!

First to perform on this Saturday evening (22 September 2012) was violinist Lee Shi Mei, who won 2nd prize in the National Violin Competition in 2007. She has since studied in Massachusetts and returned as a free-lancer with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. Displaying a very smooth and silky tone, she performed Gershwin's Summertime and I Got Rhtythm, the main theme from John William's Schindler's List, Gossec's Gavotte in D, Schumann's Träumerei, Massenet's Meditation from Thaïs and Elgar's Salut d'amour. Accompanying her was pianist Cynthia Tan.

The first pianist to perform was Wayne Teo, who has just returned from Paris where he studied with Olivier Cazal. He performed with conviction Bach's Italian Concerto and Tchaikovsky's Dumka for starters. 

Young pianist Wang Congyu is a regular at Mahler Society events. He has also returned from Paris, having being tutored by Gabriel Tacchino and Eric Heidsieck amongst others. In celebration of Claude Debussy's 150th Anniversary, he performed 5 Préludes (Danses du Delphes, Le fille aux cheveux de lin, La Danse du Puck, Ondine and Feux d'artifice), the Étude pour les octaves and the First Arabesque. He has matured greatly since I last heard him play here.

Wayne Teo returned with three very different pieces, Takemitsu's Rain Tree Sketch II, Rachmaninov's Étude-tableaux Op.39 No.1 and something by Debussy (which escapes my mind for now). 

In preparation for his recital in the Reunion islands, Wang Congyu performed Chopin's first two Ballades before taking a breather.  

Jeffrey Zhang, a former student of Congyu's, then performed Mozart's Sonata in D major (K.575), Brahms's barnstorming Scherzo in E flat minor Op.4 and Debussy's Reflets dans l'eau. 

Congyu returned to finish with the Third and Fourth Ballades of Chopin.

As an encore, he added Chopin's Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante!

An exhausting evening this certainly was, but I suspect that these young pianists can continue playing till tomorrow morning! 

The Croton Aqueduct: How New York got its drinking water

Above: The Croton Reservoir in 1850, in what would soon become Central Park. (NYPL)

PODCAST One of the great challenges faced by a growing, 19th-century New York City was the need for a viable, clean water supply.

We take water for granted today. But before the 1830s, citizens relied on cisterns to collect rainwater, a series of city wells drilled down to bubbling, underground springs, and, of course, the infamously polluted Collect Pond. But these sources were spreading disease and clearly inadequate for a city whose international profile was raising thanks to the Erie Canal.

The solution lay miles north of the city in the Croton River. New York engineers embarked on one of the most ambitious projects in the city's history -- to tame the Croton, funnelling millions of gallons of waters through an aqueduct down to Manhattan, where it would be collected and stored in grand, Egyptian-style reservoirs to serve the city's needs.

This is the story of both the old and new Croton Aqueducts, and of the many landmarks that are still with us -- from New York's oldest surviving bridge to a former Bronx racetrack that was turned into a gigantic reservoir.

FEATURING: An entire town moved on logs, a famous writer's strange musings on Irish laborers, the birth of a banking titan, and guest appearances by Isaac Newton, DeWitt Clinton, and Gouverneur Morris (or, at least, men who share those names).

To get this week's episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services, subscribe to our RSS feed or get it straight from our satellite site.

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio and Player FM from your mobile devices.

Or listen to straight from here:
The Bowery Boys: Water for New York: The Croton Aqueduct


A fireman's map of New York in 1834, detailing the location of the city water supply, in cisterns and hydrants fueled by the 13th Street Reservoir. (NYPL)

Wall Street in 1847. The Manhattan Company is at 40 Wall Street. Founded by Aaron Burr ostensibly as a public works to distribute water, the Company soon shed its water responsibilities to become a full-fledged financial institution.

The Croton Dam and the start of the aqueduct system. After a partial collapse in 1841, the dam was quickly rebuilt for the opening of the entire system the following year. Today, the location of this dam is submerged under the current Croton. (NYPL)

Examples of the various tunnels created to accommodate the various topographical challenges encountered during construction. Miles of these water tunnels were constructed by a team mostly comprised of Irish laborers. (NYPL)

The glorious High Bridge, the oldest surviving bridge in New York -- although much of it has been replaced and quite altered. (NYPL)

High society flocked to Jerome Park Racetrack on the weekends in the 19th century. But the park was turned into a reservoir at the beginning of the 1900s. (NYPL)

Also: please see my post from yesterday The Art of the Reservoir for pictures of some of the receiving and distributing reservoirs used in the Croton system and others through the New York region.

The art of the reservoir, New York's forgotten architecture

The Fortress of Fifth Avenue: the Murray Hill Reservoir

We share a lot of the same needs as New Yorkers of the past, but we've just gotten better at hiding the unpleasant ones.  There are a great many mental institutions and specialized medical facilities in the city; they just aren't in creepy, old Gothic buildings anymore. Prisons are out on islands or in nondescript beige towers flaunting only the barest hint of iron bars. We don't dress them up in Egyptian morbidity like the famous Tombs prison of Five Points.

Our trains and our electricity reside underground, and so does our water, mostly. There are only a few places that seem to suggest that New York City's water supply doesn't just magically appear. Water towers dot the skyline, recalling romantic comic book landscapes, while water treatment plants, spread mostly through the outer boroughs, obviously do not. Then there are the reservoirs, the grandest of these, the Jerome Park Reservoir in the Bronx, is a landmarked structure of enormous, albeit hidden, beauty. It's currently drained and sitting like the Earth's largest off-season swimming pool.

But New Yorkers used to live with their water, contained in reservoirs meant to evoke might, sophistication and security. After all, New York only got fresh water from the Croton Aqueduct in 1842; before that, it was mostly obtained from wells, cisterns, and that nasty old Collect Pond. People were proud of their new water system, so why not show it off?

Here's a gallery of New York's old 19th century reservoirs. In tomorrow's podcast, we'll elaborate on the marvelous story on how the city got its water:

The Manhattan Company reservoir on Chambers Street was opened in 1801 and was quickly deemed inadequate. Looks lovely though. If it were still around -- it was demolished in the early 1900's -- it would probably be a nightclub today.

13th Street ReservoirOpened in 1830 as a water-pooling resource for fire fighting, it pumped water to hydrants on Broadway, the Bowery and other streets, but was little help in stopping the blazes of the Great Fire of 1835.

The Yorkville reservoir, how it looked on its opening in 1842. It was located between 79th and 86th Streets and between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. Many years later, was surrounded by Central Park and was later torn down to become the park's Great Lawn. What does remain, however, is....

...the Central Park receiving reservoir, built in the 1850s and, unlike the Yorkville, incorporated into the park's designs. Today it's named for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who lived nearby and frequently jogged around it.

The spectacular High Bridge, part of the Croton system, with its adjoining smaller reservoir and water tower, serving the needs of residents of Manhattan's higher elevations.

The grand Murray Hill Reservoir, probably the most popular of the reservoirs with 19th century tourists. Situated on land that had held the fabulous Crystal Palace (destroyed by fire in 1858), the reservoir was demolished in the 1890s to make room for Bryant Park and the New York Public Library.

Brooklyn was maintained in the 19th century in two reservoirs, one in Ridgewood and the other high atop Mount Prospect, although the ultimate source of the water came from a variety of places.

An issue of Scientific American in 1906, celebrating 'the concreting' of the Bronx's Jerome Park Reservoir which opened that year and contained portions of both the old and new Croton Aqueduct systems.

The 1917 Silver Lake reservoir in Staten Island was constructed, like the Central Park reservoir, to be a functional feature of a park setting.

Pictures courtesy the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Museum and the Library of Congress. Thanks as always to these institutions. The Scientific American can be found here.

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, September 2012)

DOHNANYI Piano Music Vol.1
Hyperion 67871 / *****

Although Erno Dohnanyi (1877-1960) was one of the great pianist-composers of the late Romantic era (ranking alongside the likes of Rachmaninov, Scriabin, Busoni and Grainger), his solo piano music is rarely heard these days. Even the popular Variations On A Nursery Tune gets a rare and very occasional airing, if any. This first volume of complete piano music by British pianist Martin Roscoe is a sympathetic and timely reminder of the Hungarian’s craftsmanship and virtuosity.

The Four Rhapsodies Op.11, laid out like a Brahmsian four-movement sonata, is perhaps his best known work. The scherzo-like Third Rhapsody was once a very popular encore of the rapturous, barnstorming kind, and the concluding Fourth Rhapsody sounds like the definitive apotheosis of the Dies Irae theme.

The Ten Bagatelles of Winterreigen (Winter Round Dances) are more ambitious than the title suggests, looking back to Schumann’s lyricism (the first is titled Widmung, for example) and ahead to Busoni’s complexities. Dohnanyi’s last piano work Three Singular Pieces (1951), while rooted in the Romantic past, does however attempt some modernisms. The final Perpetuum Mobile is a forerunner to Ligeti’s kinetically-charged Etudes. Finally, his Pastorale (Hungarian Christmas Song) and transcription of Delibes’s Coppelia Waltz are elegance personified. Warmly recommended.   

Complete Duo Recordings
Deutsche Grammophon 477 9524 (13CDs) / *****

This very substantial box-set is the fifth part of a retrospective documenting Argentine pianist Martha Argerich’s prodigious recorded output on the German yellow label over the decades. Among her favourite partners in chamber music are violinist Gidon Kremer and cellist Mischa Maisky, both originally from Latvia, with whom she has recorded the complete Beethoven duo sonatas. Kremer’s rather dry and wiry tone is an acquired taste, which you either love or loathe, but his approach works well for the two discs of 20th century music – sonatas by Prokofiev, Janacek and Bartok. The Hungarian’s First Violin Sonata receives the most blistering, hell-for-leather performance thought possible.

Maisky is more congenial, and his contributions include J.S.Bach (sonatas originally for viola da gamba and harpsichord), Beethoven’s sets of Variations, Schumann (including the Cello Concertosans Argerich) and two love concerts in Romantic (Chopin and Franck) and 20th century Russian (Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich) repertoire. Argerich’s role is pivotal to the success of these collaborations. More than mere accompanist, she is the livewire that sparks her partners like never before and perhaps after. The original sleeve art has been reproduced for all 13 discs, and this budget-priced release retails for $79.90 at HMV. This is, in reality, a steal.  

What do you get Tiffany & Co. on their 175th anniversary? Why, a podcast, of course. (Blue box optional.)

Charles Tiffany, the son of a Connecticut mill owner, borrowed one thousand dollars from his father one day and set out with his old classmate John Young to open 'a fancy goods and stationary store' at 259 Broadway (around the northern section of City Hall).  On September 18, 1837, their little store Tiffany & Young opened their doors, displaying 'fancy articles and curiosities' and making a grand total of $4.98 on their first day.

Today Tiffany & Co. is celebrated as one of New York's oldest and most enduring businesses, moving up Manhattan with the rest of high society during the 19th century and cementing their reputation at their tony Union Square location at 15th Street (pictured above). It wasn't until 1940 that they moved to their present location on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street.

Celebrate the luxury jeweler and the Truman Capote story it inspired by digging into the Bowery Boys Archive. Episode 38 was a short history on both store and the film.

You can download it here #38: Breakfast at Tiffany & Co. Or go to iTunes and look for the Bowery Boys Archives. The original blog page with photographs can be found here.

 Courtesy NYPL

MAGICAL MOVIE MUSIC / Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Orchestra / Review

Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Orchestra
Republic Cultural Centre
Saturday (15 September 2012)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 17 September 2012 with the title of "A night of movie music magic".

It might seem odd for conservatory students to perform music from the silver screen but this is a reality of the times. Film music is as close as contemporary music gets to be performed as regularly as the great classics. And most of these young musicians will be playing popular and commercial movie music professionally as soon as they graduate.

So let us not get too snobbish about film music, as much of it is more intelligible and superior than what passes as new music today. This pleasurable two-hour concert at Republic Polytechnic’s acoustically superb concert hall was conducted by Jason Lai, who was not only a most personable presenter but a committed film buff as well. He spoke at length about each of the choices performed, and his enthusiasm was genuine and infectious.

Classics that were appropriated by Hollywood as well as specially-composed film scores were included, beginning with the first two minutes of Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra, that unforgettable depiction of sunrise used in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. This 1150-seat auditorium was made for this kind of music, where the brass is resplendent and strings sumptuous.

Ennio Morricone’s Cinema Paradiso then brought out the tender, bittersweet textures from piano and string quartet, and later a larger body of strings, the perfect expression of nostalgia. From another Italian, Pietro Mascagni’s timeless Intermezzofrom the opera Cavalleria Rusticanatugged on heart-strings, made all the more vivid by Lai’s musing about Robert de Niro’s method acting in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull.

Glamourous violinist Qian Zhou made a cameo appearance, polishing off the quasi-Jewish lament from Schindler’s List by John Williams. Her tone was luscious as always, even with the great familiarity of its melody, but how many people have actually watched the 1994 Oscar winning movie? For many years, the Steven Spielberg movie was not made available for rental here.

One could sense that the audience belonged to a certain younger demographic by the way they responded to certain pieces more than others. Although many appreciated Tara’s Theme from Max Steiner’s score for Gone With The Wind, they only got truly excited after hearing Klaus Badelt’s music for Pirates Of The Caribbean. The tricky jig-like rhythms and high octane propulsive drive was negotiated with enviable ease by the orchestra, fully living up to the swashbuckling adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow and the Black Pearl on the high seas.

The fantasy music of John Williams also drew the loudest cheers, from the tintinnabulation of the celesta from Harry Potter & The Sorceror’s Stone to the brazen brass of the Star Wars franchise. The multifarious influences of classical composers were all there to admire, from Wagner, Holst, Korngold to Walton. The saying that “While good composers borrow, great composers steal” strikes the nail on the head for film music.

For the record, the applause was so loud and prolonged that the entire Star Wars Main Title was encored. It was just as good hearing the second time around.