Institute

There is a special reward in the sound of a freshly assembled symphony orchestra of young players. This year’s Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute Orchestra, which gave the inaugural concert of its summer season at UCLA’s Royce Hall on Sunday night, could not be mistaken for an ensemble from Vienna or even Cleveland. The strings don’t yet have the sheen that comes from long association; the horns went awry somewhat more often than the legal limit. Yet what came over — as it has every summer since the Institute’s founding in 1982 — was the vitality, the exuberance of skillful young performers taking on music that has not yet become, for them, a matter of yearly routine.
The Institute, I hope I don’t need to remind you, is one of the Philharmonic’s noblest and most valuable ventures, a training orchestra formed anew every summer to offer professional performance experience to its members and also to serve as guinea pigs for a selected group of student conductors. During the summer they get the chance to meet and work with most of the guest conductors booked in for the Hollywood Bowl season; they work up several programs at Royce, several more on Sunday nights at the Bowl, and at least one on which they combine forces with the Philharmonic for some sort of monster rally. (That event is slated for July 25, when Neeme Jarvi will lead the 200-plus players in Sibelius’ Second Symphony.)
Anyhow, Sunday’s concert got the orchestra off to a strong start. Two of the three student conductors took part:  Elsa Tamarkin, who becomes associate conductor of the Dallas Symphony this fall, and Keith Lockhart, currently head of the Pittsburgh Civic Symphony.
Elsa Tamarkin had the more grateful assignment, Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide, ” a piece easy to love at first hearing, but not without its built-in problems, including the considerable task of making it sound like a piece of music, not merely a lesson in orchestration. This Tamarkin did, indeed, manage, with a strong, clear beat that kept the music aloft and fresh-sounding.
To Lockhart fell the less grateful task of surrounding Lynn Harrell’s oversized, overphrased reading of Haydn’s gentle C-major Cello Concerto with an orchestral support that might sound as if it belonged to the same piece. An excellent cellist for romantic repertory but perhaps not quite at home in anything earlier, Mr. Harrell seemed to have mistakenly viewed the work as belonging somewhere on the stylistic spectrum between Schumann and Dvorak. This did not make things easy for his young colleague; despite young Lockhart’s graceful, assured podium manner the outcome was something of a mellifluous mess.
The program ended with Brahms, lots of Brahms, the Second Symphony with all the repeats, stretched out to something close to 50 minutes of high-toned oratory, not a little wearying to the nonbelievers. Heichiro Ohyama, one of the Philharmonic’s assistant conductors as well as principal violist, led a strong, logical performance; there were no loose ends despite the less-than-heavenly lengths, and for the young orchestra the performance must have been a substantial listening experience.
Next Sunday, again at Royce Hall, the orchestra faces an even greater challenge, the glorious sweep of Aaron Copland’s big, rawboned Third Symphony. Be there.