For one who grew up musically in the New York of the 1960s, the Monday night concert at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre tugged at the memory: a stage packed with as many young instrumentalists as it could hold, with Alexander Schneider--conductor, violinist, educator, inspiration to youth--leading his charges, in this case a sizable Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute Chamber Orchestra, through monuments of 18th-Century repertory.
The outdoor setting would not have reminded anyone of Carnegie Hall or the New School for Social Research, where such events took--perhaps still take--place, but the sounds were familiar: big, brash, energetic, not always in perfect mechanical order, but never casual or unmotivated.
Schneider, now 82, will have none of your newfangled, scholarly, rehearsal time-consuming notions about old music. Get on with it, he would seem to be saying, don't be namby-pamby, play the right notes and when you feel like singing, open wide.
It didn't always work, but it was never dull. The festive first of Handel's Opus 3 Concerti grossi was earthbound by a bass line composed of eight cellos and six double-basses. Unable to soar, it had to march, rather like a royal processional, which made its own kind of sense, if not necessarily Handel's.
Mozart's "Little" G-minor Symphony, K. 183, discharged the evening's anger quotient in a reading of fierce drive, so thoroughly string-dominated in the tuttis that Mozart's startling, dissonant use of a quartet of horns--which might be considered the point of the piece--went by the boards.
Haydn's "Oxford" Symphony, however, was a joyous send-off. In the peaceful adagio opening, the upper strings provided the warm, cohesive sound absent earlier, and from that point Schneider launched his charges into a burly, rollicking interpretation that was not without some refined wind-string interchanges and, as ever with the beloved Sascha on the podium, energy to burn--and to cherish.