Conductor: Jaime Laredo
Mozart: Overture to Così fan tutte
Mendelssohn: Concerto for Violin, Piano, and Strings in D Minor - Jennifer Koh & Benjamin Hochman
Mozart: Symphony No 31 in D Major, K. 297, "Paris"
What better way to treat myself on Christmas Eve than with a concert at Carnegie Hall courtesy of the New York String Orchestra, the product of one of the most highly praised musical training programs in the States, led by veteran conductor, pedagogue and musician Jaime Laredo? Moreover, the fact that violinist Jennifer Koh, who I try to hear every time I can, and Benjamin Hochman, a new pianist for me to discover, would also be featured was another incentive that could not be ignored. Best of all, the play-list was all spirited, joyful even, works by Mozart and Mendelssohn, and not a single jingling bell or seasonal chorus was threatening to disrupt a decidedly all-inclusive crowd-pleasing concert. So I happily took one last walk down divinely scented Broadway where the left over trees were being packed off and quickly made it to the hall for the unusual starting time of 7:00 pm.
So it was on this very special night to many and in front of a very eclectic audience of tourists, friends, families and a few regulars that the perky first notes of Così fan tutte’s overture vivaciously resonated to everybody’s delight. The orchestra undeniably brought an infectious exuberance to the proceedings as much from the brightly colored tops they were wearing as from the unbridled enthusiasm they were showing. For an inspiring musician, life could certainly be worse than playing Mozart’s dazzling little gem on one of the world’s most prestigious stages before an almost full and obviously indulgent house on Christmas Eve. Eventually, they all seemed to fully relish the experience once they got around to relaxing a bit.
Having composers who were child prodigies on a program performed by unusually talented youngsters was a neat idea. Although Mozart’s two pieces were written when his art was already maturing, Mendelssohn came up with the ambitious Concerto for Violin, Piano and Strings when he was a mere 14-year-old. Wittily combining grace, ferocity and Romanticism, it gave Jennifer Koh and Benjamin Hochman plenty of opportunities to display their remarkable talents, sometimes fiercely playing off each other, sometimes harmoniously teaming up, consistently backed-up by a solid orchestra.
Mozart’s Paris symphony, which he wrote for the 1778 Concert spirituel, may not have won him the secure post he had hoped for in the French capital, but it sure helped establish him as a composer to watch. It is a short but immensely enjoyable work, easily melodious and impeccably refined, which is frequently heard in concert halls worldwide. Conductor Jaime Laredo, who had kept a watchful eye over his young charges all evening, led them with the same loving discipline and devoted commitment, clocking out the evening at… 8:20 pm! Although we did not get a loudly and insistently requested encore (What happened to the Christmas spirit?!), it was still an uplifting way to celebrate the season’s festivities, or just another wonderful night for music lovers in New York City.