The Stamford Symphony takes young people seriously, and they also take seriously the teaching and appreciation of classical musical in an era when people, especially young people, are being exposed to very little of it. That is a whole other article.
MusiKids is the preconcert Sunday afternoon session geared to enhance the concert experience for the kids who are admitted free of charge to the concert. Two of my grandsons, ages 7-almost-8 and 6 were among those present. A remarkable young woman, Leah Potteiger, who comes through Education for Music, had everyone, parents included, spellbound, clapping their hands in rhythm patterns, even dancing a few steps of the minuet and the waltz, and much more, all in a spirit of play and fun. Potteiger is the orchestra teacher at MS 180 in New York and a very fine violinist, as she proved when she demonstrated the main themes from the afternoon's upcoming program. And who paid a visit but the violin soloist for the afternoon, a charming young man, Arnaud Sussmann, with his violin.
He told the children about himself, how he came to music, his instrument and the concerto he would be playing, demonstrating the main themes with his beautiful sound. Each child received a special program and a souvenir glowstick, which they were encouraged to wave during applause. It was then time to go downstairs and find our seats. It was more than encouraging to see the large number of young people who were helping to fill the Palace Theater. The Stamford Symphony gets high praise for this project.
Now to the music. (Many of the children understandably didn't make it through the entire concert, including ours, so we didn't hear Mozart's Symphony in G-minor.) The program opened with the familiar Serenade for Strings in C major, opus 48 by Peter Tschaikowsky.
On this occasion, the orchestra had a highly competent guest conductor, Robert Moody, who, though relatively young, has impressive credits. His interpretation of the Tschaikowsky piece, however, lacked innate energy, because he took it far too slowly, even when he didn't have to. There was some merriment in the waltz and the Temme Russo, but very little sparkle. The strings of the Stamford Symphony have a luscious warm sound, and we were treated to that, but the pauses between the movements were long enough to evince applause (theoretically a concert no-no) as people thought the piece has ended. (It wasn't boring, but a few really little ones decided to take a nap.) When Sussman came on to play Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3, everything changed. The entire performance was lighthearted and dancey. Sussmann's excellent technique is so secure it allows to play with the music. He and Moody were of one mind on this piece and it was a delight to watch and well as hear. The Adagio was particularly effective, even at its gentle tempo, because the playing literally sang. Everyone, soloist, orchestra and audience had a splendid time, and the young people showed their appreciation with cheers. Kids love to say shout "Bravo!" and they did.
We went out into the evening, heading for an early supper. The boys chattered about the experience, and best of all, they want to do it again. That's the important thing.
Three cheers to the Stamford Symphony for this program, and long may MusiKids continue.