Behind The Notes with Raffaele Ponti

Raffaele Ponti
Raffaele Ponti

What does this picture of a leaf have to do with the Punta Gorda Symphony’s upcoming concert Dvořák Violin Concerto, this Sunday 1/16/2022?

The answer was delivered during the two-hour “Behind The Notes” event given by Punta Gorda Symphony Music Director and Conductor Maestro Raffaele Livio Ponti, during which he introduced the audience guest soloist violin virtuoso Sirena Huang.

This is the first time they met.

Judging by the questions asked, I was the only one in the audience who could not read music or understand half the terms being thrown around. This was Music Appreciation 101 made intelligible to the common folk thanks to Maestro Ponti.

Back to the painting.

We watched as a drawing was made from dots of paint on a canvas. All yellow dots at first, and you did no know where this was going. As the dots filled in it became apparent it was a leaf. Maestro Ponti likened composers of music to the painter’s experience; it is not just a picture but a work of art. The yellow dots are one instrument in a composition. One dimensional. The rest of the orchestra adds other colors (Maestro Ponti stated a great pianist can make a rainbow).

He had me transfixed. Never having heard any of this before, it was so revolutionary to me that I craved more information. “What about the blank segments on the page and what do they represent?” asked Maestro Ponti.


Maestro Ponti said, “The time between the notes is at times more important than the notes and representative colors themselves. It is not always about the melody said Maestro Ponti. He continued, “Sometimes what we don’t hear is what makes the piece…I remember it could be very loud when my parents were silent.”

Maestro Ponti is a gift to the community. He’s witty and insightful and leaves you with more questions than when you came. “Do you have a moment? I’ll try to finish before you leave?” he asks, as he tells a personal story, one of many he weaves into his presentation.

A recording of the lecture would be helpful. Somewhere between the rhythm, intensity, values like whole, half, quarter, and eighth notes, counter melody, outside the framework – I could not keep up. All I could think of was the beautiful colors and spaces. Maestro Ponti noted, “I have much free time to think about these things. There are only 12 notes to a scale, so we are not working with the large box of 64 crayons.”

Then we heard it.

He introduced the audience to the Gamelan music of Indonesia. Having spent a good amount of time in Indonesia, I had been exposed to this but never knew its name or paid much attention to it. It was background music to a local dance show while ex-pats tourists ate dinner.

Now for the first time in Punta Gorda, Florida, we were “hearing” the notes. Mostly percussion-like dots on a canvas, slowly at first, then all the dots/notes coming together and at you. It was such a different experience. Maestro Ponti showed a video of a Gamelan group observing, “The joy of making music – they are probably not unionized.”

Price of admission already recouped; enter Huang.

Sirena Huang is a graduate of the Julliard School and has won multiple awards for her violin mastery. Her demeanor and presence were soft and every movement was as if she were meditating.

Violinist Serena Huang performed one of her favorite pieces of music. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.

Violinist Serena Huang performed one of her favorite pieces of music. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.

Playing since age 4, at only 27 years of age, she had some inspiring words. “If you take away the library what will you read?” she said, commenting on the current climate of arts in our world.

I told my partner, a music critic for Opening Night Online, “Wow, did she bang out that tune,” to which he said, “I wouldn’t phrase it quite like that, but yes, she was marvelous.”

I am never short on words, but as I got up to leave the auditorium, I was about four feet from Huang, and all I could muster up was, “That was amazing,” to which she slightly leaned forward and said, “Oh thank you so, so much.”

Punta Gorda Symphony Kick-Off

Behind The Notes – lecture by Punta Gorda Symphony Music Director and Conductor Maestro Raffaele Livio Pont, guest violinist Sirena Huang.

FSW Campus, Rush Auditorium, 26300 Airport Road, Punta Gorda. Tickets can be purchased online at Run time: 2 hours.

Sunday’s program:

Samuel Barber | Essay No.1
Antonin Dvořák | Violin Concerto in A minor, Sirena Huang, violin
Jennifer Higdon | To the Point
Ildebrando Pizzetti | La Pisanella

 7:30 pm at the Charlotte Performing Arts Center, 701 Carmalita Street, Punta Gorda, Fl 33950. You can purchase tickets here or the Orchestra’s website at

Readers may also enjoy the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony Immersive ExperienceOrgan and Orchestra by the American Symphony Orchestra, and The Orchestra Now at Symphony Space.

Sound Tracker – Gamelan (Indonesia)

Behind The Notes with Raffaele Ponti


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