Review: Young talent leads Florida Orchestra through Ades, Brahms, Mozart

Tampa Bay Times

By Jim Harper

The kids are in charge. And they surely know how to handle their elders. Joshua Weilerstein, a conductor so trim and youthful he could be mistaken for a teenager (he's actually 27), adroitly led the Florida Orchestra through a wide-ranging and deeply satisfying program at Carol Morsani Hall on Friday night. …

Weilerstein, making his second guest appearance with the orchestra this season, fleshed out the youth-and-age narrative during his insightful (if somewhat rushed) opening remarks.

He described composer Thomas Ades, now in his 40s, as obsessed with the musical past, particularly the harpsichord music of Francois Couperin, born three centuries earlier. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was famously a prodigy — he wrote all five of his violin concertos in one year, when he was 17. And Brahms, after an unusually delayed adolescence, seemed old even before he was. Brahms might not have easily gotten along with people, Weilerstein said, but his music expresses a deep humanity.

Under Weilerstein's sensitive direction, it managed to be both gossamer and weighty in the right portions.

Weilerstein didn't over-conduct, his left hand and the baton in his right simply coaxing the players along, with judicious gestures of time and intent. The music itself took the lead, along with Gomyo's brilliant playing. Her trills and ornaments were not just decorations; they were integral parts of the rhythm and melody. Her cadenza at the end of the second movement had a beautiful sense of suspension that made me hold my breath. At the end, she received an enthusiastic and unanimous standing ovation, richly deserved. Then there is Brahms. His fourth and final symphony is a formidable piece of work, with grand themes, stunning harmonic evolutions and great issues to be wrestled with. Friday's performance breathed clearly and well, its sweeping melodies balanced with staccato punctuations from various parts of the orchestra. To watch Weilerstein conduct is a thrill; he dances, he jumps; he embodies the changing moods in his body and face.

But this is a big piece. None of that would matter if he didn't also bring significant commitment, intelligent control and resolve. And he did.

Read the full review here.