The Youth Symphony Orchestra of New York is a wonderfully courageous and hardworking organization. At Carnegie Hall on Saturday afternoon, the interracial orchestra of some 85 boys and girls ranging in age from 12 to 20 gave a deserving young performer the chance to make his New York debut as soloist in Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2.
He was Justin Blasdale, a 22-year-old Californian who attends the Juilliard School and studies with Rosina Lhevinne. He is a promising talent. He had the technique for the demanding concerto, he had a good sense of its style, and he projected much of its brilliance and drama.
But the orchestra stole the show. Much counting and careful ensemble playing is needed to keep this concerto afloat and the youngsters gave it all they had. There were tense moments along the way, but they did not break down. When they finally made it to the last fortissimo statement of the big third-movement theme, the triumph was enough to make a hardened listener get a lump in his throat.
The remainder of the concert, which was conducted smartly and authoritatively by 24-year-old Richard Holmes, offered the overture to Wagner's "The Flying Dutchman," the overture to Mozart's "The Abduction from the Seraglio" and Ravel's "Bolero."