Two-thirds of the way through the Music Academy of the West’s Summer Festival comes Concerto Night, when winning soloists from the competition two weeks earlier showcase their stuff, backed by the thrilling support of the full orchestra. “Thrilling” must have been the sensation, judging from these inspired performances. Meanwhile the orchestra was magnetically attuned to conductor Joshua Weilerstein (brother to famed cellist Alisa Weilerstein), who was making his Music Academy debut. This concert was a homecoming for the young New York Philharmonic assistant conductor, who not only attended the Music Academy as a violin fellow (’07-’08), but also was a Concerto Competition winner in 2008.
First up, hornist Trevor Nuckols, standing left of Weilerstein with bell oriented toward the audience, delivered a skillful and spirited Horn Concerto No. 2 in E-flat Major by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Playing from memory (as did the evening’s other soloists), Nuckols demonstrated brass mastery with his smooth, even tone and crisp accents. Violinist Danbi Um followed with the opening movement to Violin Concerto by William Walton. Originally written for Jascha Heifetz, the Concerto was a wonderful showpiece to highlight Um’s warm tone and energetic finesse. Finally, pianist Micah McLaurin played the final two movements to Frédéric Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.2 in F Minor. So persuasive is McLaurin’s conviction that he only had to touch the first chords of the Larghetto, and the concert hall seemed to unhinge from ordinary time. The concertos completed, after intermission Weilerstein and the orchestra returned for Tchaikovsky unleashed — Symphony No. 5.