Youth Symphony in Old and New Works

Youth Symphony in Old and New Works

The New York Youth Symphony, a training orchestra for musicians between the ages of 12 and 22, presents a series of concerts at Carnegie Hall every season. By charging low ticket prices -- $5 for general admission -- the orchestra regularly packs the hall. And generally it performs at a level that leaves listeners admiring the devotion of both the young players and the conductors who work with them.

When the orchestra opened its 35th season on Sunday afternoon, it introduced a new music director, Mischa Santora, a 26-year-old conductor who studied with Otto-Wener Mueller at the Curtis Institute of Music. Mr. Santora's ensemble this year includes 96 players, drawn from conservatories, private schools and public schools in New York City, Westchester, Long Island and New Jersey.

Mr. Santora opened the program with the world premiere of Shafer Mahoney's ''Something Snappy,'' the latest of 40 works commissioned by the orchestra. Mr. Mahoney, who was born in 1968, uses syncopations and bright-hued orchestral flourishes as a way of evoking youth, yet it might need a more experienced ensemble to bring it to life. In this performance, the rhythms were too thoroughly studied; they fell flat when they should have danced. But there were some nice touches in the piece, including an attractive section for pizzicato strings, several passages that called to mind Leroy Anderson's orchestral coloration and one that recalled Aaron Copland's excursions into Latin American music.

The pianist Vladimir Feltsman was the soloist in Rachmaninoff's ''Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,'' and if the orchestral playing was tepid at first -- the strings seemed unable to match the power of Mr. Feltsman's line -- it caught fire after a few pages and yielded some fine string and brass work. Mr. Feltsman, who in recent years has stepped back from the Russian showpieces in favor of increasingly inventive Bach and Beethoven performances, here offered a reminder that he can make Rachmaninoff's shapely melodies sing.

The young musicians were at their best in the single work performed after the intermission, Dvorak's Symphony No. 6. This was a fully professional performance, with fine brass playing, a crystalline wind tone, all the lushness one could want from the strings and both the right suppleness for the Adagio and sufficient fire in the Furiant. Mr. Santora shaped his phrases thoughtfully, and the players responded to his clear, graceful gestures.

Just before the Dvorak, the orchestra presented its Theodore L. Kesselman Award for Arts Education to the violinist Midori, who has her own educational foundation, and to Carlos Moseley, the retired managing director, president and chairman of the New York Philharmonic. Beverly Sills and Isaac Stern presented the awards, and Jamie Bernstein Thomas and Schulyer Chapin presented Mr. Stern and Miss Sills.        

Publication Information

December 19, 1997
The New York Times
Allan Kozinn

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