A driving snowstorm couldn't keep a large crowd from attending the Chesapeake Youth Symphony Orchestra's winter concert at Maryland Hall on Saturday evening, and I'm sure that most of those plucky souls felt this program of Mozart, Dvorak and Kabalevsky was a special treat, even on a night when getting there was definitely not half the fun.
Karen Deal's orchestra continues to expand. A trumpet section has materialized, praise be; the violins and cellos remain in working order, and a very young principal oboist has made splendid progress.
The youngsters continue to confront musical masterpieces that must be swallowed whole. Deal refuses to baby her troops with arrangements, transcriptions or other adulterated fare. The CYSO performs the original score, the whole score and nothing but the score.
Saturday's performance featured the opening movement of Mozart's "Eine KleineNachtmusik," Dmitri Kabalevsky's 3rd Piano Concerto and the extraordinary 8th Symphony of Dvorak.
The Kabalevsky is a work from the Stalinist era that doesn't exactly break the aesthetic bank, but it is spunky, fun and worth doing well. "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" is, of course, a ubiquitous mega-hit, while the Dvorak is one of the great symphonies of any era and a tall order for any orchestra, let alone one composed of kids.
I thought this was an admirable concert for several reasons.
First, these youngsters play with total commitment andunflagging energy. Of course, they drop some notes and the deepest sonorities of a work like the Dvorak can only be waved at, but they miss little of the vibrancy that makes the symphony and its much underrated composer so indispensable. Deal's cellists, for example, contributed in spirited fashion to the opening themes and were bowing just as enthusiastically in the raucous fourth movement nearly 40 minutes later.
The conductor also has them playing with an admirable sense of style. How about that lilting Austro-Hungarian schmaltz she coaxedfrom her fiddles in the third movement! The trumpet fanfares that open the Finale were appropriately snappy, and concertmaster Amanda Barrows' gorgeous solo in the slow movement sang gently over the orchestra in a manner true to the tender spirit of the piece.
There are many others in this orchestra who can flat-out play. The Dvorak 8th doubles as a flute concerto, and principal flutist Rebecca Krimins spunout phrase after phrase clearly, tastefully and in tune. Her orchestral neighbor, principal clarinetist Amy Tubman, also has a sweet toneand an expressive musical personality.
This is also a smart, alert orchestra that watches its conductor while counting rhythms and rests like mad. The players provided an admirably secure underpinning inthe Kabalevsky concerto that was absolutely essential to the successof the performance. With three different pianists performing the work's three movements, orchestral support had to be unwavering -- and it was.
The pianists -- Katherine Greenfield (no relation) and Bee Elvy of Annapolis High, and Tiffany Haughn of Arundel High -- had wona competition sponsored by the CYSO.
Greenfield entered into the high spirits of the first movement as it progressed, and by the time the cadenza rolled around, she seemed very much her own person at thekeyboard.
Haughn's middle movement was sensitively played. The chords in her opening interlude were carefully voiced, and she deftly entered into a lovely dialogue with the woodwinds (Krimins and Tubman again) in the 6/8 portion.
Elvy came on like a young man who ownedthe stage, and by the time he was finished playing the zippy Presto,he did. His final ringing statement, delivered in conjunction with an enthusiastic, prepared orchestra, encapsulated what the entire concert had been about.