by Jeremy Eichler
That overused catchphrase of the 1990's applies here: it takes a village to raise a youth orchestra too. Think of all the needed instruments, the teachers and the private lessons, the rehearsals with special orchestral coaches, the encouragement (read bullying) to practice early on, the parental leap of faith to believe that a twinkle-twinkle-scraping kid could someday play tone poems by Richard Strauss, or anything else for that matter.
It seemed as if most of the village turned out on Sunday afternoon as proud families, friends, and other supporters streamed into Carnegie Hall for the final performance of the New York Youth Symphony's 42nd season. It included Brahms's "Tragic Overture," Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1 and, yes, Strauss's "Also Sprach Zarathustra."
Beyond just providing students, 12 to 22, with real experience in an orchestra, the Youth Symphony also promotes young professional musicians in the early stages of their careers. One example is Ankush Kumar Bahl, the group's assistant conductor, who made his Carnegie Hall debut leading an energetic reading of the Brahms overture with clear authority and enthusiasm, though by the orchestra's standards, the playing was somewhat roughhewn. A second example is Judd Greenstein, a graduate school-bound composer whose jaunty work "Today and Everyday" was given its premiere. Inspired by the restless pulse of Mr. Greenstein's native New York City, the piece had jazzy Bernsteinian syncopations, a Coplandesque brass chorale, and above all, an impressive confidence which will serve him well as he develops a more distinctive voice.
That work, along with the remainder of the program, was led by the group's capable music director, Paul Haas, who drew excited and admirably polished playing from the orchestra, both in the Strauss and the Bruch concerto. The solo part of the Bruch was unspooled with impressive refinement, emotional freedom and tonal depth by the violinist Anne Akiko-Meyers.
There are clearly players in this orchestra bound for professional careers in music, but just as important are those who will one day take their seats in the audience. Conservatories are bursting at the seams, but our supply of impassioned listeners desperately needs restocking. And for that job, there can scarecly be better training.