/ Altenburg review: “an absolute highlight”, “hallowed and heroic performance”

We are truly humbled by another incredibly positive review from #BYSOTour:

ACCLAIM FOR SOLOIST AND YOUTH ORCHESTRA FROM MASSACHUSETTS Concert of the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras in the Ceremonial Hall of Castle Altenburg within the Framework of the Museum Night BY FELIX FRIEDRICH Altenburg. Every visitor at the special performance of the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras under the conductorship of Federico Cortese will have had the exact same impression: This was an absolute highlight of the Altenburg Museum Night. One may perhaps justifiably debate whether or not this was the proper venue for this concert or if the young musicians from Massachusetts should have been offered an appearance on another, separate occasion. But the advantage is naturally obvious: an exceedingly animated acclaim from the audience is positively guaranteed during a Museum Night. And that is precisely what happened. The Ceremonial Hall of Altenburg Castle was filled to capacity. This discussion, however, is utterly pointless because the organizers of the Altenburg Music Festival and of the Residential Palace seized the unique opportunity and used the guest performance of the BYSO in the Gewandhaus in order to present Altenburg as a second concert location. The music lovers were enthusiastic, for when will such an opportunity be repeated? The Orchestra, founded in 1958, comprises over 100 students who dedicate themselves with great commitment and lively passion to the practice of music in this orchestra. The concert program, which the BYSO offered in Altenburg, came to no more than two symphonic works, but those packed a punch. This alone sufficed to carry away the audience of Altenburg to frenetic storms of applause. Already at the end of the first part there was a jubilant outpouring for the young soloist Stella Chen for her convincing interpretation of Ludwig van Beethoven’s violin concerto op. 61. It was simply a wonderful experience, during the sparkling performance of this young artist from Boston, to immerse oneself in this oft joyously exciting yet also poignantly flowing music. Stella Chen never lost herself in superficial virtuosity but rather corresponded perfectly with the accompanying orchestra, took over the dialogue of the themes and was utterly on the same wavelength with the conductor Federico Cortese. This one acted with economical movements and knew full well how to deal with the acoustical traps of the Ceremonial Hall. Thus the orchestral sound, even during the great acoustic concentrations, always remained on a pleasant level without slipping into harsh eruptions. Stella Chen mastered her demanding solo part, including the opulent cadences, without the slightest flaw. Nevertheless, she could not be moved to give an encore. The second part of the concert, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s third, the Scottish Symphony, gave the BYSO and Federico Cortese the chance to display once more all their strengths. They did not allow this situation to go to waste. Even though Cortese here too did not celebrate a showy conductorship with bombastic gestures and exaggerated physical play, he nonetheless led his young musicians securely through all the difficult passages of the symphony and to an imposing, refreshing performance that in no way drifted off into something crude and hollowly heroic. Both the string sections as well as the woodwind- and brass players were in perfect harmony with one another and showed the darkly melancholic but also powerfully majestic sides of this music to their best advantage. One could tell from Cortese’s conductorship that he is at home on all the concert stages of the world and with his baton technique able to meet the highest challenges. The finale of this concert would have been unthinkable without an encore. After this brilliant concert the concentrated vitality of Berlioz’ Hungarian March brought the audience to their feet with exuberant cheers of acclamation. That was more than appropriate for this great musical moment in the musical life of Altenburg. Translations by Hermann Schibli
Stella Chen and the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra performing in the Ceremonial Hall of Altenburg Castle.