Conductor: Jaime Laredo
Mozart: Overture to The Marriage of Figaro
Mozart: Symphony No .31 in D Major, K. 297, "Paris"
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64 - Bella Hristova
One of New York City's most enduring, beloved and - amazingly enough at this time of the year - secular holiday tradition has been the couple of concerts performed by the New York String Orchestra at Carnegie Hall every December. Made of specially gifted music students hand-picked across the United States and Canada alongside more illustrious alumni, the New York String Orchestra was therefore back on Tuesday evening and presenting an early, no-fuss, one-hour program of solid crowd pleasers by Mozart and Mendelssohn. And that was totally fine because, really, who wants obtuse, challenging works on Christmas' Eve, when everybody, including the friends, family, tourists and music lovers filling up the hall, was already in a celebratory mood?
Mozart's overture to The Marriage of Figaro needs no introduction, and proved right away that the budding artists on the stage were quite a talented bunch indeed. Under the upbeat baton of Jaime Laredo, the program's director and conductor for the past 20 years, the orchestra happily infused the sparkling work with youthful energy and artless virtuosity.
Opening on the kind of assertive note that was so popular with the French orchestras at the time, Mozart's Paris symphony is a relatively short composition that bristles with pretty melodies and understated complexity. Written when the composer was a mere 21-year old, this 31st symphony of his received a respectful and dynamic treatment from the equally young musicians, with just the right amount of classy elegance. Even if it understandably did not have the impeccable osmosis of the most prestigious professional orchestras at their finest hour, this ensemble more than made up for it with its boundless enthusiasm.
Mendelssohn, who was just as much of a child prodigy and versatile artist as Mozart, is the author of many memorable works, among which indisputably stands out his hugely popular violin concerto. A highly successful alumni of the 2004 and 2006 New York String Orchestra seminars, Bulgaria-born violinist Bella Hristova was evidently non-plussed by the formidable task at hand and kept her playing light and graceful. The unabashedly lyrical opening, probably one of the most instantly recognizable in the entire violin concerto repertoire, rose beautifully, and the rest went on just as effortlessly, all the way to the grand finale, which concluded the concert with brio and panache.