Jerusalem Orchestra, young prodigy, delight audience

The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra wowed the crowd Monday night in its debut at the Troy Savings Bank

TROY — The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra wowed the crowd Monday night in its debut at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in a well-chosen program that was enlivened by a miracle of a 13-year-old cello prodigy. The concert, which was part of the Troy Chromatic Concerts series, came midway through the orchestra’s three-week U.S. tour.

Conductor Dmitry Yablonsky pounced like a tiger on the opening downbeats of Glinka’s “Ruslan and Lyudmila Overture” as the orchestra roared through the short piece showing off the strings’ electric facility that was silken smooth.

Alexander Tchaikovsky’s “The Khojaly Requiem” (2012) was in contrast. As a memorial to the Azer people of Azerbaijan killed during a recent 20th century war, it is pulsing, percussive and dark with the tar (a small guitar held across the body at shoulder height) as the voice of the Azer. Tremolos, swirling repeated motifs, and frenzied modal scales made for an eloquent lament.

Then out came Danielle Akta, a little girl in a pink dress with pink ballet slippers barely taller than her cello, who played Saint-Saens’ Cello Concerto No. 1 (1902) like a pro decades older. Already a seasoned recitalist and winner of numerous awards, she played with her eyes shut and a big smile.

For her, the piece was a conversation between her cello and the orchestra. And what a marvelous talk they had. She was exuberant, technically precise even to the perfect harmonics and double stops, wonderfully musical and totally at ease, a natural performer. Yablonsky, who is also a cellist, knew how to support her. The crowd gave her a long standing ovation.

The main course, however, was Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 in E minor (1908). The four movements are rapturous, superbly orchestrated, and so tuneful that people left singing the melodies.

The orchestra was splendid with a vibrant, rich sound, well-balanced, terrific ensemble work and a unifying quality of tone across all sections.

Yablonsky led with great pace, well-arched and exquisite phrases, terrific tempos and much passion. The climaxes were thrilling at their full volume levels.

The audience leaped to its feet with a roar of approval, cheers, whistles and loud applause.

The encore was Johann Strauss, Sr.’s rousing “The Rasetzky March.”

The final concert on the series is April 20 with French pianist Lise de la Salle.

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