New York String Orchestra Christmas Eve Concert at Carnegie Hall with Jaime Laredo & Bella Hristova

Concerto in D minor for Two Violins, BWV1043Dvořák
Romance in F minor, Op.11
Introduction and Rondo capriccioso, Op.28
Symphony No.35 in D, K385 (Haffner)

Bella Hristova (violin)

New York String Orchestra
Jaime Laredo (violin)

Reviewed by: Violet Bergen

Reviewed: 24 December, 2011
Venue: Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York City

Jaime Laredo. Photograph: www.vso.orgThe members of the New York String Orchestra were in festive attire for the annual NYSO Christmas Eve concert. This training program for young musicians assembles annually for ten days of intensive workshops and two performances at Carnegie Hall. The players’ enthusiasm was infectious.

J. S. Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins featured Jaime Laredo and his former student, Bella Hristova. The timbre of their instruments was greatly varied, but they were unified in their phrasing, and the small ensemble of strings breathed with them as if a single organism. Laredo’s bright but thin tone cut through the tutti sections, whereas Hristova’s dark, rich sound was more blended, yet this disparity served to enhance the music’s contrapuntal nature. The tenderness of the interplay between the soloists was graceful and engaging, and in the slow movement, Hristova’s seamless bow-changes created an endlessly lovely legato. Laredo’s occasional use of portamento was charming, a Romantic interpretation of Baroque music that is now seldom heard. The tempo of the final Allegro was brisk but not rushed.

Hristova was then the soloist in two shorter works. Dvořák’s Romance is an arrangement of the slow movement of a string quartet that was unpublished in the composer’s lifetime. Hristova did not hold back in projecting her Amati’s huge tone. Her exaggerated phrasing suited the passionate nature of the work. Laredo brought an ethereal quality to the orchestra’s introduction to it. The Saint-Saëns was originally composed as the finale of his Opus 20 Violin Concerto, dedicated to Pablo de Sarasate, who began performing it as a standalone piece. Hristova sailed through it with technical confidence, showcasing a precision of articulation in her stunning bowing. Laredo allowed the orchestra to be grand in the tutti sections, although it became too subservient in accompaniment passages, practically disappearing under the soloist.

Mozart’s ‘Haffner’ Symphony showcased the glorious string section, although their numbers overpowered the winds, disappointingly inaudible. The violinists were zealous, playing as soloists yet with thoughtful unity. The intensity of the performance did not diminish in softer passages, where the shading of phrases was subtly rendered. The lightness but depth of expression was particularly impressive in the Andante.

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