`New World' given 2 fine performances

February 04, 1999|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

If you're a fan of Antonin Dvorak's "New World" Symphony, the last two Saturdays in January were just for you.

With guest conductor Christopher Wilkins at the helm Jan. 23, the Annapolis Symphony let fly with one of its best sessions in recent years in their traversal of Dvorak's much-loved classic.

Saturday, the 52 members of the Chesapeake Youth Symphony Orchestra also rediscovered the "New World," in a performance that marked the full-length concert debut of the CYSO's new conductor, David Ik-Sung Choo.

Choo, 36, who was recently awarded a doctorate from Baltimore's Peabody Conservatory, is already an assertive CYSO leader squarely in command of his troops. His style may be minimalist -- no histrionics -- but he had his kids ready to play. When it was time for the flags to fly, as in the brass-led fanfares of Dvorak's concluding allegro con fuoco, the results were thrilling.

This was a "New World" animated by terrific trumpets and low brass, a top-notch timpanist and a classy complement of violins led by all-business concertmaster Dawn Kittrell, who sets an admirable example for her section.

Congratulations also must go to Lisa Spears, whose English horn sang out so beautifully in the famous largo movement of the symphony. She isn't likely to ever play a more exposed solo, and she paid homage to Dvorak's artistic intentions by playing it so well.

Contributions from the principal desk woodwinds were more variable in quality, but there is potential there. So stylishly did solos emerge from the flute and oboe in that same largo that I wondered momentarily whether an adult ringer or two hadn't been engaged for those interludes.

"No way," I was told. Those were the youths playing, which tells me that once Choo has enough rehearsal time to get his section leaders to sound that confident through four full symphonic movements, the sky will be the limit.

A pat on the back also must go to trombonist Graham Middleton, of Easton High School, who put his mighty chops to work in the opening movement of Ferdinand David's Concertino for Trombone and Orchestra. He displays strong but pleasant tone, negotiates nasty register skips with aplomb and can turn out a nice lyrical phrase whenever the composer serves one up.

Pub Date: 2/04/99

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