Hideaki Hirai, Music Director

The New York Festival Orchestra made an astonishing debut at Carnegie Hall/Stern Auditorium in December 2013. The orchestra features young artists who have graduated from top New York and international music schools and are winners of national and international competitions world-wide. Most of them are also experienced orchestra players. Not surprisingly, the authors of the three reviews, received by the orchestra after the concert, speak very highly of the outstanding performance level of this orchestral debut: 


"the playing overall was polished and the ensemble remarkably unified, as if they had been together for a long period of time. From the tremolos that open the work, to the timpani bursts in the Scherzo, the sublime Adagio in the third movement, to the Prestissimo of the final bars of the epic last movement, it was a highly satisfying performance. Maestro Hirai was especially impressive. Conducting from memory, he demonstrated his deep knowledge of the score with unflagging energy and intense concentration. He was dynamic, confident, and completely engaged for the entire 75 minutes. It was especially interesting to me that he "sang" along with the chorus with evident joy on his face. It was among the best of the live performances I have heard of this work and justly deserving of the standing ovation it was accorded. Bravo to all! "
 - New York Concert Review

"With the highly expressive and lively presence of the orchestra, and especially its conductor, Maestro Hirai, the concert quickly reached and maintained a high energy level. On several occasions, the audience could not hold their appreciation; even inadvertently interrupting the Ode to Joy’s final intricate and powerful layering of the string sections with a thunderous applause. The end of this concert part was followed with a very long and emotional reaction on the part of the audience. Much of it was directed to Maestro Hirai for his masterful interpretation and intimate knowledge of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, which he conducted from memory.

Maestro Hirai made a remarkable Carnegie Hall debut in front of an audience of about 3000 people who recognized his outstanding job with the New York Festival Orchestra. This special concert was also NYFO's first performance. With very limited rehearsal time only on the concert day, because of the holidays and because many of the orchestra musicians came from different parts of the United States, both the conductor and orchestra did a very fine, polished, and full of energy performance not to be missed!"

- New York Cultural Examiner

"The Beethoven “Ninth Symphony” was performed by the New York Festival Orchestra, Beethoven Memorial Chorus, and guest solo vocalists. Hideaki Hirai conducted. This Symphony is highly popular in Japan during New Year’s festivities. The first movement, “Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso”, featured strings and bassoons in atonal fervor. The musicians and chorus had been assembled just for this special event, and it was incredible how this orchestra was so tightly timed and in visual communication with Maestro Hirai. The second movement, “Scherzo: Molto vivace – Presto”, was evocative of the opening theme, but with differing tempos and volume. The timpani were dramatically featured, and from my first tier, left, box seat, I was in full view of the percussion contingent, including triangle and kettle drums. Sweeping musicality marked the moment.

The third movement, “Adagio molto e cantabile – Andante Moderato – Tempo Primo – Andante Moderato – Adagio – Lo Stesso Tempo”, is expansive and elegant, with thematic variations featured. The brass instruments were featured in heraldic fanfare, followed by full orchestral repetitions, and the violins, horns, and trombones were introduced with the Conductor’s masterful baton. The clarinetists caught my eye with lovely refrains. It’s the final, fourth movement, where the chorus and solo vocalists are introduced, in renowned, melodic harmonies. Friedrich Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”, sung in German, rang clear, with monumental effects. Naomi Satake, soprano, Francesca Lunghi, alto, Paul Williamson, tenor, and Katsuji Miura, bass-baritone, all sang with gorgeous tonality and warm resonance. The cellos were especially scintillating in this final movement. The audience made their enthusiasm heard throughout the evening. As the Beethoven Ninth came to a torrential conclusion, the Hall erupted in equally torrential accolades."

- Roberta on the Arts, New York