Symphony No.1 in D, Op.25 (Classical)
Concerto in E-flat for Two Pianos and Orchestra, K365
Symphony No.4 in A, Op.90 (Italian)
Anna Polonsky & Orion Weiss (pianos)
New York String Orchestra
Reviewed by: Lewis M. Smoley
Reviewed: 28 December, 2016
Venue: Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York City
Among New York City’s major assets are many diverse orchestras that provide a varied repertory played by highly accomplished musicians. Whether the ensembles specialize in a particular historical period or focuses on obscure or standard fare, they constitute the backbone of our cultural riches and, in a few cases, provide young players with invaluable experience. One such is the New York String Orchestra (founded by Alexander Schneider for student musicians, involving a week-long seminar and concerts, and these days augmented beyond its original strength) and under Jaime Laredo’s aegis continues its well-deserved reputation.
Laredo’s light and lively reading of Prokofiev’s ‘Classical’ Symphony gave the musicians just the right medium through which to show their talent. Played with impressive togetherness and elegance, embellished with Prokofiev’s wry wit, these were the outstanding features of this performance. Lilting charm graced the Larghetto, and Laredo gave the players a lesson in rococo style by hesitating slightly at the beginning of the Gavotte’s main theme, a mimetic touch rarely done in an effort to ‘place’ this dance music. There were though some technical problems: a tendency to swallow phrase-endings and a two-dimensional approach to dynamics, but Laredo showed how much can be accomplished with gifted players who are thoroughly engaged in making music.
Anna Polonsky and Orion Weiss have outstanding reputations, individually and as a duo, and they offered an enjoyable reading of Mozart – tasteful, intelligently nuanced and brilliantly coordinated. The music is a delightful entertainment, full of charm and good humor. The pianists captured the contrast between light, dainty passages and ardent assertions, all without unduly excessive dramatization. Laredo’s handling of the NYSO was a lesson in how to accompany soloists.
The concert’s second half was given to an energetic account of Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ Symphony, notable for the straightforward presentation. It was an admirable attempt to play lengthy figurative passages with sustained precision (not always accomplished) in the outer movements (exposition repeat observed in the first one) and to shape arched phrases in the second one. The rather tarnished sounds emitted from the horns in the third movement’s Trio section were a slight distraction, and in the Finale Laredo put the ensemble through its paces by setting a rather brisk tempo, but the players came through admirably, galloping vigorously to the finish.