When the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra took the Royce Hall stage--where the American Youth Symphony usually plays--Saturday night, a few double-takes could be excused. For one thing, the brass sections are almost identical, and the two groups share a number of other players.
But there can be no case of mistaken identity between the music directors. Compared to the mercurial Mehli Mehta--or just about any other conductor--Lalo Schifrin presents a reserved, almost reticent, podium manner.
In regulating the woodwind/trumpet dialogue and string background of Ives' "Unanswered Question," Schifrin's restraint proved effective. For Webern's orchestration of a Ricercar from Bach's "Musikalishes Opfer," it seemed inhibitory.
Schifrin made no concession to period style in his heavy, deliberate account of Mozart's Symphony No. 40. He kept the full orchestra onstage--nice for his young charges--yet never made them truly play softly. The result was a square, rich-sounding interpretation that managed excitement only in the Scherzo and Finale.