|Önay Köse, James Edgar Knight, Joshua Gersen, Avery Amereau, and Raquel González|
As if Beethoven's Ninth Symphony were not sufficiently thrilling, we got to witness the Carnegie Hall debuts of four of our favorite Juilliard graduates who took on the roles of soloists in the famous fourth movement--The Ode to Joy. What a joyful afternoon it was for performers, audience, and for us.
In the lyrical third movement (Adagio molto e cantabile) a rising fanfare announces the excitement to come. The impressive New York Youth Symphony, which has been performing for over a half century, showed particular strength in the lower strings with dynamic control and clarity of attack.
And then bass Önay Köse took over the bass solo with his booming voice and majestic phrasing. An emotionally penetrating sound was achieved by tenor James Edgar Knight. The voices of mezzo-soprano Avery Amereau and soprano Raquel González literally sailed over the orchestra.
The New York Choral Society, under the direction of David Hayes, handled the rest with crisp diction and a warm sound perfectly suited to the inspiring text. The entire affair was conducted by Joshua Gerson who was far more intense in his conducting than in a prior work. It was as if the majesty of the music brought out the best in everyone. Even the unruly horns were on their best behavior.
This was our second Beethoven symphony this week and we never fail to appreciate the master's sense of structure and inventiveness, not to mention the unity of the movements achieved by motifs running throughout. In this piece however, we always feel as if we are at a splendid meal but somehow aware of the dessert to come--the sweetness of brotherhood and the mood of rejoicing.
The curtain raiser was Rossini's Overture to La Gazza Ladra in which the energetic young conductor Harrison Hollingsworth created quite a riveting figure on the podium with his flowing blond locks and athletic body. The young musicians responded well to his intense style. A drumroll paved the way for a theme in march rhythm with those unruly horns cracking left and right. Following on its heels a familiar theme in the strings that is quintessential Rossini. A spritely way to begin the afternoon!
The remainder of the first half of the program comprised the première of an interesting piece by the young Molly Joyce entitled Fresh, which was commissioned by the New York Youth Symphony's First Music program. It stood very well on its own merits except for needing more of a climax. Ms. Joyce wrote in the program that she aimed to have the orchestra take over the rhythm of the percussion section. This, sadly, we did not hear but that is a small matter since the piece spoke for itself of a budding compositional talent. What we did like was the portentous nature of the theme in the drums and lower strings.
It was a pleasure not only to see our much admired singers onstage but to hear the fine accomplishments of the New York Youth Symphony. The organization is nationally recognized for orchestral training, conducting, chamber music, jazz and composition--all tuition-free, made possible by scholarships on merit-based auditions. Talented teens need apply.
(c) meche kroop