Young Talents with a Fondness for Applause

Young Talents with a Fondness for Applause

Before conducting the impressive New York Youth Symphony in Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique” Symphony at Carnegie Hall on Sunday afternoon, Ryan McAdams, the orchestra’s dynamic music director, spoke about a moment in this piece that often creates awkwardness for audiences.

The third movement is a wildly energetic march that builds to a blazing conclusion. And as Mr. McAdams explained, many people hearing it performed cannot resist “leaping up and applauding.” But other people in the audience, knowing what is coming next, the concluding Adagio lamentoso movement, an anguished expression of inner pain and emotional collapse, often glower at those enthusiastic audience members who disrupt the mood with cheers and applause.

Mr. McAdams came down clearly on the side of those inclined to applaud. For one thing, he said, pointing to the young players in the orchestra, “we are all total suck-ups for it” and will “take as much as we can get.” With that he invited those who felt so inclined to applaud away.

The audience applauded after each movement, with a sustained ovation at the end. This was the final Carnegie Hall concert of the orchestra’s 48th season. And under Mr. McAdams, an Alan Gilbert protégé who won an award for emerging conductors from the Solti Foundation last year, the Youth Symphony continues to do essential work.

The student musicians, ages 12 to 22, played with rich sound (the sighing second theme in the first movement had lovely warmth and supple shape), confidence and character. If the waltzing second movement, with its elusive 5/4 meter, was a little cautious, the talked-about march was taken at a brisk clip and played to the hilt.

Thanks to the orchestra’s admirable First Music program, every New York Symphony concert includes the premiere of a work by a young composer. On this program the composer, Eric Guinivan was the soloist in his own “Meditation and Awakening,” scored for percussionist (Tibetan bowls and vibraphone, played with bows and mallets) and orchestra. In the opening of this engaging eight-minute piece the delicate bell-like sounds of the bowls are caressed by the orchestra in waves of shimmering colors and murky harmonies. But when riffs break out on the vibraphone, the frenetic energy and intensity of the music grow steadily, until the work ends in a whirling rush.

Opera buffs in the audience who were anticipating the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung” next season had a teaser on Sunday when Mr. McAdams conducted a quite good performance of the orchestral interlude “Siegfried’s Rhine Journey.” Then, as an added treat, the Youth Symphony played a spirited account of an unscheduled work that needed no introduction: the “Ride of the Valkyries” from “Die Walküre.”

Publication Information

May 23, 2011
The New York Times
Anthony Tommasini

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