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Music Reviews : Youth Symphony Plays Strauss/Bruch Program

It was a program unrelated to Easter holiday, but the latest of the American Youth Symphony’s concerts at Royce Hall was simply the fifth installment in the orchestra’s seasonlong survey of Richard Strauss’ tone poems.

By now the orchestra is fluent in Strauss’ expansive rhetoric. The players are certainly up to the music’s considerable technical demands. The brass plays heroically, the wind principals deliver handsome, sensitive solos and the whole ensemble responds to conductor Mehli Mehta’s ministrations with ardent enthusiasm.

Too much enthusiasm, in fact, some of the time. Although the 100 young players displayed a wide dynamic range and generated some thrilling crescendos Sunday, Mehta failed to regulate his forces so as to give each work a sense of form and direction. In both the Dance of the Seven Veils from “Salome,” which opened the concert, and “Tod und Verklarung,” which closed it, he all too often allowed his musicians to play at full throttle.

Between the Strauss works, Navroj Mehta gave an energetic, confident account of Bruch’s Violin Concerto. Showing superb bow control and attacking each phrase with precision, the young violinist made the finale convincing.

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Stiff tempos and pedestrian phrasing, however, made the first two movements rather routine exercises. Still, the Indiana University and Juilliard product (and grandnephew of the conductor) produced a big, rich sound and showed fine technique.


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