Speck guides youth orchestra well

January 27, 1995|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Special to The Sun

Let it be known that the Chesapeake Youth Symphony Orchestra is in very capable hands.

Scott Speck, in his debut concert at the helm, had his 56 musicians in excellent form Sunday evening in a program of Tchaikovsky, Bizet, Brahms and John Adams at Key Auditorium in Annapolis.

Mr. Speck, 33, establishes a much different podium persona from that of his predecessor, Arne Running, the emotional Philadelphian who served the CYSO so well in his two seasons here. Where Mr. Running stomped the feet and stabbed the air to inspire his troops, Mr. Speck's kinder, gentler stick work coaxes the players in a less insistent manner.

Still, the results were plenty emotional when it counted, especially in a bristling, altogether professional account of Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony. Indeed, the concluding "Allegro con fuoco," with Mr. Speck's brasses hoisting the colors with startling virtuosity, was easily the most exciting -- and best-played -- single movement in the orchestra's 4 1/2 -year history.

Equally impressive were the mature interpretive touches achieved by the youngsters at so many spots across this concert's diverse offerings.

I'm thinking, for example, of the rich violin sound in the 1st Brahms Hungarian Dance and of the throbbing string tremolo established so dramatically in the opening bars of Bizet's Suite from "Carmen."

I'm also recalling the pizzicatos that provided such a buoyant rhythmic underpinning to the "Carmen" selections, and to the overall mastery of the many saucy rhythms that propel John Adams' cutesy-minimalist "Short Ride in a Fast Machine," a work that's as hard to play as it is to take seriously.

For the most part, CYSO personnel is in excellent shape.

Brasses and violins are the strong suits. What a terrific French horn section! The players' Tchaikovsky fanfares sounded rich, glossy and very much the real thing. The principal oboe and clarinet are talented fellows and a pair of bassoonists who can really play have been added to the ranks. The Tchaikovsky 4th contains some very formidable bassoon writing, and these young women are to be commended.

Truly Mr. Speck's talent searches have paid off.

The only hole is the undermanned, undernourished cello section.

I couldn't help thinking of how Tchaikovsky would have sounded had last year's collection of thoroughbreds been superimposed atop the current edition of the CYSO. It would have been something.

Attention talented cellists out there: Call 647-7494 and arrange your CYSO audition.

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