Arne Running shines at CYSO debut concert

January 26, 1993|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Contributing Writer

The guard has changed, but the Chesapeake Youth Symphony Orchestra remains in the best of hands.

Saturday evening marked the debut concert of Arne Running, the music director of the Swarthmore College Orchestra, who assumed the CYSO helm in August.

Like his predecessor, Karen Deal, Mr. Running refuses to serve up baby food to his 52-member ensemble. Saturday's fare, presented at Key Auditorium on the campus of St. John's College, included Mendelssohn's "Reformation Symphony," the "L'Arlesienne" suites of Georges Bizet and a pair of demanding shorter works by Satie and Sibelius. Not a runt in the litter.

There is much to report of Mr. Running's handling of this diverse and challenging program, and virtually all of it is positive.

To begin with, Mr. Running is an enthusiastic, vivid communicator of music. This is no Olympian autocrat fashioning dramatic crescendos and decrescendos with the flicker of an eyebrow. Animated and extroverted, he is with his players every step of the way, coaxing, imprecating and partnering their efforts with every fiber of his physical and aesthetic being.

Though on a few occasions his insistence on one-to-one communication with his violins and cellos resulted in some tentative entrances from the winds, the fact is that his players responded to him with everything they had. And though there is motion aplenty on the podium, it is all at the service of the music. His ego remains disengaged throughout, as in the concluding bars of the second movement of the "Reformation," when the conductor simply dropped his baton and enjoyed his woodwinds right along with the audience.

An expanded brass section would be in order but otherwise, the level of orchestral playing was prodigious. The violin section contributed exceptionally well though, to my ears, Key Auditorium is not overly hospitable to the treble range. The CYSO cello section is in wonderful shape and the woodwinds also sound marvelous. Extended flute solos in "L'Arlesienne" and the "Reformation" were handled beautifully and the young principal oboist made the fiendishly difficult Satie "Gymnopedies" take flight.

Even more striking than their unflagging energy was the sophisticated way in which the kids committed to the changing emotional content of the literature. The "Gymnopedies" floated gracefully, the Bizet exuded its rugged, rustic charm, and the rapt intensity of the "Reformation's" slow introduction was deeply felt and very moving.

Thanks to expert, loving guidance from the podium, these youngsters are already beginning to sense that what's between the notes is at least as important as the notes themselves.

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