IN the world of the contemporary symphony orchestra, youth is not so much a stage of life as it is a battle cry. Youth orchestras! Young conductors! At times it begins to seem that nothing else counts.
Last December in Vienna, Christoph Koncz, a cherubic ex-concert master with the training orchestra at the Verbier Festival, in the Swiss Alps, and now, at 22, a principal second violin with the Vienna Philharmonic, recalled the Salzburg Festival debut of the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra under the fire-eating Gustavo Dudamel, then 27, in 2008.
Whether craving such magic or out of pure altruism, A-list conductors in ever-increasing numbers attach themselves to ensembles like the Verbier Festival Orchestra (long associated with James Levine), the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra (organized on the initiative of Claudio Abbado) and the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra (founded by Riccardo Muti). Last August in Salzburg, Franz Welser-Möst, music director of the Cleveland Orchestra, explained the appeal. “Professional orchestras are jaundiced,” he said. “Youth orchestras are full of enthusiasm. Old maestros love that.”