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The American Youth Philharmonic Orchestra performed Sunday at George Mason University.
The American Youth Philharmonic Orchestra performed Sunday at George Mason University. (American Youth Philharmonic Orchestra)

An extended suite from Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" was the main offering. The large string complement had the necessary oomph, and every soloist gave it his or her all: oboe, bassoon, trumpet, harp, flute and more.

A few instrumental entries were slightly off, especially in the Valse, and the music was played rather than interpreted, but the overall effect was impressive.

The American Youth Philharmonic's more advanced players were simply outstanding in works that were excellent choices for a concert dedicated to Adel Sanchez, who is retiring after 16 years as AYP winds coach.

Excerpts from Wagner's "Die Meistersinger" were played idiomatically, with very smooth-sounding strings and warm, prominent brass.

Music Director Luis Haza did not so much conduct the music as conjure it -- beautifully.

Respighi's "Pines of Rome" was raucous and thoughtful by turns, if scarcely subtle. String precision was excellent, the solo trumpet and clarinet were wonderful, and the lengthy concluding crescendo -- with added brass and percussion -- shook the rafters, getting a richly deserved standing ovation.

-- Mark J. Estren

Sumi Jo

Perhaps the aria from Vivaldi's opera "Griselda" that opened soprano Sumi Jo's recital at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall on Sunday was not the best choice to showcase her talents. The South Korean singer knocked off its fusillade of runs and high notes with sure technique. But the coloratura sounded detached (the text's fraught emotions barely registered), her voice coming across as diminutive and insubstantial.

Another Vivaldi aria, from the opera "Bajazet," made a very different impression. Jo's emotional involvement here only reached a level of generalized melancholy, but the shimmering, full-toned beauty of her singing, together with her ability to float high notes with a ravishing delicacy, made the performance one to cherish.

And so went the remainder of the recital: brilliantly executed, emotionally neutral coloratura of the windup songbird variety -- it's no accident that a high point among her encores was the mechanical doll's song from "The Tales of Hoffmann" -- alternating with softly wafted singing of a swooning, almost unearthly beauty (most notably in a perfumed reading of Eva Dell'Acqua's "Villanelle" and an almost too-sensuous gloss on Copland's plain-spoken "Pastorale"). If Jo's rendition of Violetta's bravura Act 1 aria from "La Traviata" was one of the more gorgeous ones I've heard, it was also singularly devoid of dramatic awareness.

Pianist Vincenzo Scalera proved a superbly responsive partner throughout and contributed sparkling, elegantly turned performances of Gershwin's Three Preludes.

-- Joe Banno

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