This ensemble is rare if not unique, in that "chamber orchestra" is no misnomer. The musicians are peers. They play without a conductor, even when their number approaches forty. Arabella Steinbacher is a virtuosa soloist who grows and progresses artistically year by year. The performance I attended in Princeton, NJ was sheer, breathtaking perfection. (As the end of the tour at Carnegie Hall has not yet taken place at this writing, I hope to influence a few additional people to show up.)

The opening piece was winds only. That allowed the strings-only Hartmann piece, and Ms. Steinbacher's first entrance, to be a dramatic contrast. Even without program notes, I would have known that Hartmann's Concerto fun├Ębre is a programmatic Holocaust piece, somewhat redolent of Shostakovich and many a Korngold movie score. I'm not sure the piece would hold up after many hearings. However, on first impression in that setting, and so excellently performed, it was moving and even stunning.

The two very familiar Mozart post-intermission pieces provided welcome comfort and cheer, after the gravity of the Hartmann piece. Only for the Haydn "London" Symphony was the entire Orpheus ensemble on stage. That was so well played as to satisfy, despite following Ms. Steinbacher.

The true chamber orchestra configuration produces what might be a tricky situation for the soloist. With no conductor, she was the absolute focal point of attention. Never have I seen a soloist make an entrance with more poise and elegance. She radiated delight and satisfaction. That seemingly trivial detail made an appreciable contribution to the whole.

These artists are "loaded for bear" as it were, for Carnegia Hall!
Posted on 29 Apr 2011, 2:05 AM