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American Youth Symphony delivers ebullient finish to 49th season

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symphony orchestra concert


UCLA's Royce hall resounded with an evening of Debussy, Chausson, Saint-Saëns and Strauss on April 13, expertly finessed by the American Youth Symphony, led by Music Director Alexander Treger.

Former AYS concertmaster and violinist Nigel Armstrong performed as soloist for Saint-Saëns' Introduction et rondo capriccioso, Op. 28. Armstrong, a 2011 Tchaikovsky Competition finalist, was ferocious in his attack, but not without flourishes of delight. His fiery interpretation played at the extreme edge, threatening to ignite the strings. He transported the audience as well with his encore, Bach's gavotte en rondeau, Partita No. 3 in E major.

Assistant Conductor Radu Paponiu conducted Debussy's The Afternoon of a Faun with evident and high personal depth. Music Director Alexander Treger's handling of Strauss' An Alpine Symphony Op. 64 was masterful. The hall quaked whenever the 125-member orchestra was in full play. Musicians were in top form, earning several standing ovations. The Alpine Symphony's 22 titled sections were vivid, delivered with both powerful and subtle shadings.

The concert, billed as The Alumni Project, concluded AYS's 49th season. Orchestra members –– aged 15 to 27 –– often graduate the intense training and performance schedule to secure illustrious careers. Alumni hold principal positions with with the world's premier orchestras, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony and others.

KUSC music commentator and critic Jim Svejda's has called AYS "the finest youth symphony on earth." Founding Music Director Mehli Mehta's believed that "it takes a lifetime to learn symphonic literature." The course Mehta laid out encompasses mastering "all the symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Dvorak, plus the last six symphonies of Mozart, five of Mahler, two of Bruckner and all the Strauss tone poems."

AYS concerts are free, attracting one quarter million people to Royce Hall since the series began nearly 50 years ago. AYS also provides crucial music outreach to the community. Donations comprise a portion of the AYS budget, and there are numerous ways to show generosity, ensuring optimal training for dedicated young musicians.