The New World Symphony, a post-conservatory program for aspiring orchestra musicians co-founded three decades ago by Michael Tilson Thomas, was conducted by Bernard Labadie, with Nicole Trotier (from Les Violons du Roy) as guest-concertmaster. The musicians responded to Labadie’s tutelage with outstanding performances that featured antiphonal violins, little or no vibrato, and phrasing that ably captured the spirit of the Baroque and Classical eras.
The slow opening of the Overture to Ariodante was richly sounded and the fast-paced fugue – with two oboes, bassoon and harpsichord joining in – was agile. The selections from the ballet that ends the opera included the lively ‘Gavotte’ and a whirling delight of a ‘Bourrée’, the strings brilliantly rapid-fire. In Haydn’s opening Allegro, each of the featured instrumentalists contributed fine solos and also combined to form a group that stood out from the orchestra, which was quite robust in tuttis, horns and trumpets adding regal touches. Labadie took the Andante without rushing, milking its melodic sweetness, while Sodam Lee’s contributions and Bee Ungar’s runs highlighted the witty Finale.
Following intermission Labadie led an account of Mozart 40 that could hold its own against any orchestra. The initial movement adhered to its Molto allegro marking without racing, and although Mozart’s later addition of clarinets softened it a bit, there was still plenty of bite. Careful attention was paid to subtleties such as the violas’ opening notes and the softly pulsing horns in the Andante. The Minuet was vigorous and the Trio graceful, and the Finale was taken briskly and made engrossing.