Positive Motions Returns to Glendale

Ruslan Biryukov, Elayne Boozler, and friends ring in the return of the Positive Motions concert series in Glendale.


If you’ve been paying attention to the news, it wasn’t such a great week recently for American classical music fans. New York City Opera, the Big Apple’s “people’s” alternative to the posh Metropolitan Opera, filed for bankruptcy, ending a 70-year run that saw world premieres by the likes of Aaron Copland, Ned Rorem, and Gian Carlo Menotti, among others. Then in the Midwest, the bitter and protracted lock-out between the musicians and management of the Minnesota Orchestra took a turn for the worse when Osmo Vänskä and Aaron Jay Kernis, its music director and resident composer respectively, resigned in frustration over stalled talks to end the dispute. The ongoing economic malaise that seems to have no end in sight doesn’t help matters.

But local music lovers enjoyed a glimmer of hope on Oct. 6 at Glendale’s First Baptist Church. The Positive Motions concert series, founded by cellist Ruslan Biryukov, returned for a new season. Positive Motions, which also oversees the Glendale Philharmonic, has been hit hard since its inception by withering financial support and inflation in costs. Yet it has managed to remain; a bit battered, but still standing—and with the announcement of a new Glendale Philharmonic concert in January.

The Oct. 6 program was a conservative one, but the playing was anything but. The Trio de Mare e Sole—comprised of Dmitry Rachmaninov (piano), Julia Heynen (clarinet), and Biryukov—brought each note into high relief with brilliantly virtuosic playing, something that was especially welcome in the set of Eight Pieces for Clarinet, Cello, and Piano (minus one) by Max Bruch.

The program’s focal point was the world premiere of Rescue: A True Story, a collaboration between composer Carol Worthey and comedian Elayne Boozler, who recited the work’s narration. The story is based on a story about a dog that bounced from home to home, sometimes being abused, but finally ended up with a loving family. A real dog-eat-dog sort of “tail” (pardon the pun). Peter and the Wolf it ain’t, but it still made a pleasant enough impression.

What really drew attention was the playing, which was superlative in every way. Biryukov’s playing, as was remarkable: intense, exacting, and athletic. His partners, Rachmaninov and Heynen, were every bit his equals, pouring out playing that was rich, vibrant, and deeply expressive.

Positive Motions is following up with another concert this month. Here’s to hoping that they finally become the Glendale cultural success story they deserve to be.