Conductor: Carlos Miguel Pireto
Fellows of the New World Symphony, America’s Orchestral Academy
Revueletas: Suite from Redes (arr. Erich Kleiber)
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 1
Gil Shaham: Violinist
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5
Carnegie Hall’s official season may be over, but it does not mean that nothing is going on there. In fact, these days it seems like the venerable concert hall has been taken over by hordes of disgustingly young and talented youngsters coming from all the over the States courtesy of NYO2, an orchestral training program created two years ago by Carnegie Hall' Weill Music Institute for talented teenage musicians coming from communities underrepresented in classical music. And more power to them for that.
So last Tuesday evening, my friend Ruth and I found ourselves in the Stern Auditorium packed with countless friends and family members of the orchestra’s members, as well as regular music lovers and random visitors, all gathered together for a program featuring three very different 20th century works. The cherry on top and, to be truthful, my main reason for being there, was the presence of Gil Shaham, a fabulous violinist – and maybe not so incidentally a fierce music education advocate – whose live performances I hadn’t been attending in way too many years. Better late than never.
Suite from Redes, which was written by Mexican composer, conductor, violinist, professor and political activist Silvestre Revueletas for the film Redes, and then arranged by Viennese conductor Erich Kleiber, opened the concert with plenty of dark realism. And the large orchestra vigorously proved that they were fully adept at mastering the boldness and complexity of the starkly expressive piece under the energetic baton of Mexican maestro Carlos Miguel Pireto.
Although Prokofiev’s unusually arranged Violin Concerto No. 1 opens in a lyrical mood and boasts attractive melodies, it wastes no time showing its brilliant mood-swinging side in the second movement, before calming down and eventually fading away in the last movement. I was pleased, although not surprised, to see that former ebullient child prodigy Gil Shaham had not lost his magical touch as he gamely delivered an effortlessly virtuosic performance, which was readily enhanced by his seamless connection with the deeply appreciative kids surrounding him. No slouches themselves, they supported him whole-heartedly throughout the occasionally thorny, but always engaging work.
The collaboration was in fact so successful that they all treated us to a repeat of the endlessly exciting second movement as an encore, just for the heck of it, and it was just about as dazzling as the first time around.
We stayed in the Russian repertoire after intermission with Shostakovitch's sprawling Symphony No. 5, which the orchestra handled with the same expertise and enthusiasm they had demonstrated so far. Written while the Stalinist purges were in full swing, his fifth marked the composer’s comeback from total banishment and still showed more rebellion than repentance, starting with open anger and closing with cautious optimism, if any. The brass brightly resounded, the strings beautifully glowed, and it all simply fell into place, regardless of the many challenges the musicians had to overcome.
The 45-minute journey had been intensely emotional, but nothing could stop the youngsters as they kept going full speed ahead with two exuberant encores: The Intermezzo from La boda de Luis Alonso by Spanish composer Gerónimo Giménez and "Malambo" from Estancia by Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera. And it was an memorably fun send-off, complete with some of the sections suddenly popping up and getting back down without missing a beat. Because they could.