Academy Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Julian Wachner, with Yu Xiong, concertmaster; Sara Mueske, harpsichord; Paul Merkelo, Brandon Eubank, and Christopher Coletti, trumpets. At Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, Saturday, August 5.
Reviewed by Gerald Carpenter
Here was an event as extraordinary as the annual rebirth of the Festival Orchestra, and without precedent. There was no Academy Chamber Orchestra last year, and here it was, a contender, inviting favorable comparison with the greatest ensembles of its size in the world. Whose idea it was, I don’t know, but as soon as they thought of it, it must have seemed inevitable. After all, these gifted young instrumentalists, poised on brink of their professional careers, are at least as likely to find themselves playing in just such an ensemble as in a full-sized symphony orchestra.
No doubt a good deal of the credit for the group’s amazing polish must go to the brilliant and enthusiastic Julian Wachner, and the rest of it to the remarkable young musicians.
The program was exquisitely balanced and guaranteed to please. They opened with Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto for Strings in G Major, RV 151, “Alla Rustica,” and the Venetian’s powerful enchantment transfixed us for the entire evening. The great disciplined volume of sound belied the number of musicians playing.
Few modern works would have fit into this program as neatly as that which came second, Igor Stravinsky’s Concerto in E-flat Major, “Dumbarton Oaks.” Although it didn’t get the biggest hand of the evening, I found it the most impressive performance, an homage to the baroque for 15 virtuosos, all of whom played as if they were channeling Stravinsky’s subtlest intentions. Vivaldi’s Concerto in C Major for Two Trumpets, which turned the sanctuary into a Venetian cathedral, brought the first half to a glorious finish.
After the intermission, the mood shifted gears to lush romanticism, with Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s famous and beloved Serenade for Strings in C Major, Opus 48: lovely, but somewhat superficial — one might say maudlin — after the inspiring first half.