Violins, voices and instruments, all younger than springtime, combined in a generous Saturday evening musicale, as Mormon Youth welcomed the Easter season. The Tabernacle was nearly full, and I can't recall a more enjoyable outing for this group, taken all in all.
Igor and Vesna Gruppman, Russian violinists who comprise Uno Duo and play with the San Diego Symphony, headlined the program. They opened with the Mozart Concertone in C Major for Two Violins and Orchestra, a melodious piece in three movements with a lovely, limpid largo, produced by Mozart in his 17th year.The Gruppmans play beautifully together, with admirable balance and tones enough different for distinction - he a little more wiry and aggressive, she more soft-edged and liquid. A little over-amplification made them stand out almost too much from the orchestra at times, but in general the give and take between soloists and tutti in this miniature concerto was buoyant, yet relaxed.
In the famed Bach Concerto in D minor for Two Violins, the duo tossed off the opening Vivace with vibrant joie de vivre and luxuriated in the shimmering fold-on-fold of melody in the beloved Andante. (Who says Bach wasn't a romantic? He had his moments.) The final minuet vivace was taken at a clip you wouldn't want to dance to but was exciting from instrumentalists as brilliant as these.
Anthems by John Rutter showed off the largest Mormon Youth Chorus in memory, and one of the best. Under Bowden's skillful direction, the singers displayed fine blend and balance, a sound ingratiatingly youthful and clear and outstanding diction, with never a word lost - not the easiest accomplishment for a chorus of 300 plus.
Rutter is a composer in tune with his times, whose songs are rhythmically catchy, his pretty harmonies just unconventional enough to be piquant, all suffused with upbeat faith and conviction.
It's Christmas morning all year round when bells, horns and triangles set off such delightful songs as "For the Beauty of the Earth," "Praise Ye the Lord," "O Clap Your Hands" and "All Things Bright and Beautiful." At other times - "The Lord Is My Shepherd" or "God Be in My Head" - Rutter casts a dreamy, serene spell. His anthems are ideal for Mormon Youth and comprised a joyous prelude to Easter.
The Rutter Gloria has its moments, beginning with a golden-toned aura and proceeding with many fine harmonies and interesting effects. But though it's short, I sometimes feel a sense of bombast, a hollowness that doesn't show up in his more intimate expressions.
The orchestra was relegated mostly to accompanimental chores, in which it could sometimes have been more aggressive. But it came into its own in Copland's lively, breezy "An Outdoor Overture," with opportunities for Mormon Youth's good brass and a challenging wind-up for strings as well.
The audience was large, loving and enthusiastic - indeed, too enthusiastic. Applause in the wrong places is corny and uncouth, no matter how well-intended. Breaking into the total effect that performers are trying to achieve, between movements of instrumental works or after every song in a group, lengthens the evening, wearies the palms and can be as disruptive as a misplaced bear hug. A good rule of thumb is, don't applaud until you come to the double spaces on the program. When in doubt, don't.