To Schmieder's additional credit, though, this concert -- the 11th in the series -- tried to go further. He reached into the contemporary sphere and brought forth a profoundly moving threnody, "Tears of the Angels," by Britain's John Tavener, who started out as a Beatles-sponsored wunderkind and evolved into one of the most popular of the so-called holy minimalists.
Tavener was the centerpiece of an English trilogy -- again, an enterprising stroke of programming. Britten's edition of Purcell's Chacony in G minor, with some dynamic alterations by Schmieder, set the mood for Tavener; Malcolm Arnold's lushly neo-classical Concerto for Two Violins and Strings was a robust chaser.
Alexandru Tomescu and Catharina Chen displayed contrasting solo styles in Arnold -- Tomescu full of extraordinary temperament, Chen more reticent and lyrical. As an encore, they had fun with the Yehudi Menuhin-Stephane Grappelli elaboration on Jacob Gade's "Jalousie."
After tiny Elena Kawazu, all of 10, wowed with her push-button mastery of the violinistic tricks in Sarasate's "Carmen Fantasy," Schmieder rolled out his own string-orchestra transcription of Grieg's String Quartet in G minor (which he calls Serenade for Strings). He made an especially convincing case for this inflation of means in the third and fourth movements, spotlighting solo instruments in the former and producing a satisfying bass end and massive string sound in the latter. This could be a good companion to Grieg's "Holberg" Suite and Two Elegiac Melodies -- and I Palpiti passionately nailed the Serenade's tough, fast unison runs.