The New York Times
By Allan Kozinn
December 26, 2006
Music Review | New York String Orchestra
The New York String Orchestra includes performers on woodwind, brass and percussion instruments, but why tamper with a name that has both cachet and tradition, however inaccurate it is nowadays. The group springs into being every December, when a few dozen young musicians (63 of them this year) come to New York from around the country for the New York String Orchestra Seminar. The program, 10 days of chamber and orchestra coaching for musicians between 15 and 22, is sponsored jointly by Carnegie Hall and the New School. It includes a pair of concerts at Carnegie Hall, the first always a relatively short, intermission-free program on Christmas Eve.
This year the Christmas Eve concert was devoted fully to Mozart, whose 250th anniversary year is quickly and, at long last, coming to a close; soon we’ll resume hearing Mozart all the time without having to give a reason.
There is of course ample reason for young musicians to spend quality time with Mozart, and the orchestra’s zesty, alert performances left a listener with the impression that these players were happy for the opportunity. Their performances, conducted by Jaime Laredo, were solidly unified, but flexible enough to provide the sudden, dramatic dynamic shifts that Mr. Laredo regularly demanded.
The concert was as much an opportunity to hear how Mr. Laredo’s conducting has changed over the years as to eavesdrop on the next generation of orchestral players. When he took over this orchestra in 1993, after the death of its founder, Alexander Schneider, Mr. Laredo adhered largely to his predecessor’s warmly Romantic approach, with fluid tempos, elongated phrases and even, at times, a hint of portamento applied to Baroque and Classical era works.
Gradually Mr. Laredo has updated his interpretive approach, and the orchestra’s sound. And on Sunday evening its Mozart was fully in the current style. The broadened chasm between piano and forte is part of it. So are relatively trim textures, and the breakneck tempos Mr. Laredo took, to the evident joy of the players, whose vigorous account of the “Impresario” Overture made it into something more than a curtain raiser.
In the Sinfonia Concertante, with Mr. Laredo conducting from the viola and Jennifer Koh as the violin soloist, the most notable moments were in the slow movement. There the violin, with its low-lying line, nearly matches the viola in tone, and Ms. Koh and Mr. Laredo played the serene dialogue with a meltingly beautiful sound.
The program ended with an appealingly rambunctious reading of the Symphony No. 36.
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