Sunday, April 22, 2012

European Union Youth Orchestra - Copland, Mozart & Strauss - 04/18/12

Conductor: Vladimir Ashkenazy
Copland: An Outdoor Overture
Mozart: Violin Concerto No 3 in G Major, K 216 – Itzhak Perlman
Strauss: Eine Alpensinfonie, Op. 64

An opportunity to hear violinist extraordinaire Itzhak Perlman is never to be missed. When you can also support the European Union Youth Orchestra, a unique ensemble made up of the crème de la crème of music students coming from the 27 member states of the European Union, by the same token, there is simply no excuse to skip the concert, especially if it takes place at Carnegie Hall. On top of it, the traditional but solid program – overture, concerto, symphony – featuring Copland, Mozart and Richard Strauss was promising attractive melodies, evocative moods and emotional richness. The ideal mid-week pick-me-up, if you asked me.

Composed with a young orchestra in mind, Copland’s Outdoor Overture is a delightfully invigorating breath of fresh air, and even more so when performed with the incredibly seasoned skills and unwavering aplomb of this particular group. Vladimir Ashkenazy, their music director since 2000, looked just as enthusiastic as his young charges and a grand time was had by all.
A long-time dedicated pedagogue himself, Itzhak Perlman is no stranger to collaborating with the next generation and clearly knows how to make the most of it. On Wednesday night, it was a real pleasure to hear his refined, luminous tone arise amidst the vivacious accompaniment from the reduced ensemble for Mozart’s Violin Concerto No 3. With this lovely piece, the 19-year-old composer was finally coming into his own, and its fast maturing talent was particularly evident in the divine Adagio, which bristled with angelic grace before the charming Rondo wrapped things up with careless exuberance.
Richard Strauss is somebody that has never ceased to amaze me. I mean, how on earth can you go from Ein Heldenleben to Salome to Der Rosenkavalier to … Eine Alpensinfonie (among many, many other things)? Inspired by his beloved Bavarian Alps and spurred by his boundless imagination, this monumental tone poem narrates a whole day of climbing a mountain peak. The majestic beauty of nature, the pleasant presence of cattle (complete with cowbells), the breathtaking view from the top, the blinding fury of a storm and the peaceful glow of the evening all came out loud and clear in a splendid display of what a group of whole-heartedly committed musicians can achieve. Obviously stimulated by the intense energy coming from the orchestra, maestro Ashkenazy nevertheless kept everything under control and created a mermorable experience totally worthy of the prestigious Stern Auditorium.

It is probably a safe bet to assume that, as European natives, most of the musicians onstage were setting foot on American soil for the first time. Therefore, it was indeed more than fitting that the encore was a wordless but dynamite version of Bernstein’s “America” from West Side Story, one of the most infectious tunes ever written and one thrilling conclusion to a totally uplifting concert.

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