The New York Times: Credit Nan Melville
By VIVIEN SCHWEITZER
Lack of diversity is a problem in various art forms: the recent appointment of Misty Copeland as the first African-American principal dancer of the American Ballet Theater highlighted the homogeneity of classical dance. One of Ms. Copeland’s goals is to expand the audience for ballet and, she has said, “to see more people that look like me on the stage, in the school and in the audience.” The admirable Sphinx Organization has a similar aim: to increase diversity in the classical music world.
There has certainly been progress since 1961, when government officials in Birmingham, Ala., tried to ban the African-American cellist Donald White from performing in a concert with the Cleveland Orchestra. But blacks and Hispanics are still woefully underrepresented in orchestras and concert halls.
The Sphinx Virtuosi, a string group, performed at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday evening as part of its annual tour. The concert, called “Inspiring Women,” was dedicated to female composers and historical figures. It opened with a propulsive, richly hued interpretation of “String” from Jennifer Higdon’s Concerto for Orchestra, which demonstrated the ensemble’s polish and tonal allure. Daniel Bernard Roumain’s “Rosa Parks Symphony,” a tribute to the civil rights activist, featured wailing, passionate violin declarations over ominous, rumbling lower strings — material that, while engaging, didn’t prove substantial enough for a whole movement. The second movement, “Klap Ur Handz,” sounded rather simplistic.
The Catalyst Quartet offered a dynamic performance of Joan Tower’s lyrical, melancholic “In Memory,” inspired by the death of a friend and the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
A highlight of the evening was the terrific performance by the 15-year-old violinist Hannah White of the “Ballade” from Ysaÿe’s Sonata No. 3. Her technical dexterity and expressive flair earned an enthusiastic ovation.