Mark McCoy, the new conductor of the Chesapeake Youth Symphony pressed into service after Scott Speck's resignation in November, was impressive at his debut at Maryland Hall.
McCoy got my attention immediately in the brooding tempo that opens Beethoven's "Leonore" Overture. Rather than give his players an artificial boost through those lengthy phrases and searching harmonies, McCoy stuck to his (and Beethoven's) guns, demanding and getting sustained playing that covered over virtually every potentially empty space.
I also was impressed by the conductor's handling of the exotic tone poem "Scheherazade" during Saturday's concert. Rimsky-Korsakov's colorful evocation of the Arabian Nights tales a tremendous challenge in every way.
Not only did McCoy keep all the trains running on time -- no small feat in a work so chock-full of ad libitum solos -- but there were evocative changes of instrumental color as various themes passed among the principal players. Not until the cruelly taxing final few pages did the young orchestra sound the least bit overmatched.
This is not the strongest incarnation of the 5-year-old orchestra. Violas, cellos and second fiddles are shadows of their former selves. Some excellent players populate the ranks; solos from trumpet, trombone, oboe, horn, flute andharp were deftly handled.
Concertmaster Jonathan Voelkel's performance was stunning in
his sensitive playing of the silky, sensuous solos Rimsky-Korsakov gave to the fiddle.
Josef Horvath, a gifted violinist from the Slovak Republic, took the stage to solo in the G Major concerto of Mozart.
The hyperkinetic Fritz Kreisler bonbon served up as an encore showed that he has the fingers and bow arm to go places, but the concerto left me cold. This was unyielding Mozart taken at a stiff, quick pace that precluded any stops to smell the roses strewn in this sweet and sunny work.