Sunday, the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra under the baton of guest conductor Benjamin Juarez Echenique opened its 1987-88 season at Royce Hall, UCLA, with performances of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 ("Emperor") and Mahler's Symphony No. 1 ("Titan").
The soloist was 18-year-old Joel Fan, a first prize winner in the 1986 YMF piano competition. Other than at the competition, this was Fan's first appearance in Los Angeles.
Fan's facility makes his playing a technical wonder. His style is often flashy and showy, although never reckless, but his Beethoven tends to overflow with joyous abandon, in direct contrast to Juarez, who conducts with reserved stateliness. Nevertheless, there is little doubt Fan is a soaring talent with lots of energy and ability.
For the performance of the Mahler symphony, the traditionally omitted "Blumine" movement, originally conceived as the second movement but later discarded, was included. It might have helped the audience if program notes were provided explaining the history of the "Blumine" movement. Juarez conducted with austere precision, but Mahler perhaps needs more warmth and flexibility.
The orchestra responded with a full sound although the winds and strings suffered from occasional intonation problems and the brass proved sometimes tongue-tied.
The free concert was warmly received by an audience of moderate size.