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Orchestra celebrates its youth

Times Staff Writer

The American Youth Symphony, under the inspired direction of Alexander Treger, opened its 38th season Sunday at UCLA’s Royce Hall with a typically amazing concert.

The musicians, 16 to 25, played with freshness, precision and sophistication whether in the poised rhetoric of Mozart’s “Haffner” Symphony or the sprawling, tumultuous, joyful paroxysms of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony.

The orchestra showed elegance and style in Mozart, providing depth of sound without sacrificing detail or balance, and accents without stridency or edginess.

The same transparency and balance could be heard when the textures of Mahler’s massive symphony thinned out, but the climaxes also rang thrillingly. The passage in the third movement prefiguring heavenly bliss as well as the movement’s stop-on-a-dime ending were breathtaking.

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Trumpeter Timothy Hamon, trombonist Maciej Pietraszko and clarinetist Aiko Oda deserve praise for their confident, assertive solos in the Mahler symphony; then again, most of the young principals -- not to mention whole sections -- contributed exemplary work. Treger, as usual, gave 120%.

The concert, dedicated to the American Youth Symphony’s conductor laureate Mehli Mehta, who died Oct. 19 at the age of 94, began with an account of Barber’s Adagio for Strings that expressed both deep bereavement and consolation.


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