No boring speeches, no appeals for money, just fine music-making. With one of its alumni as soloist, the American Youth Symphony opened its silver anniversary season Sunday evening with a splendidly delivered Tchaikovsky program at Royce Hall.
Frank Almond, who is 25 himself, brought confidence, dynamism and superb control to the Violin Concerto. Though his playing proved more notable for sweetness of tone than for definition and clarity, the former Juilliard student exhibited both technical mastery of and emotional involvement.
The former Youth Symphony concertmaster (1983), while taking a fairly conventional interpretive stance, certainly breathed feeling and drama into the familiar work, and delivered myriad nuances eloquently. The orchestra matched him in accuracy and sensitivity.
The Fifth Symphony served as an exciting avenue for the young musicians to show their mettle, and for conductor Mehli Mehta to demonstrate once again how successfully--following the inevitable annual personnel changes--he can mold 100 individuals into a unified ensemble.
He carefully regulated balances and dynamics, allowing details to emerge clearly and the dramatic flow of each movement to unfold logically. His strings sounded full and vibrant, woodwinds especially expressive, and brass remarkably vital and heroic.
The program opened with the Fantasy-Overture, "Romeo and Juliet," in a reading full of passion. Again, kudos to this year's clear, precise and energized brass section.