By Lawrence Budmen

While Tchaikovsky considered himself a mainstream European composer in the tradition of Brahms and Liszt, his brooding, melodramatic scores are quintessentially Russian. The less familiar side of Tchaikovsky's output dominated the New World Symphony's continuing exploration of the Russian Musical Soul on Saturday evening at the Lincoln Theater. With former child prodigy Leila Josefowicz providing sensational fiddling in the program's one chestnut, Michael Tilson Thomas proved to be a Tchaikovsky interpreter on the most exalted level.

The New World Symphony has recently broadened its educational mission to include conductor training. Conducting Fellow Florin Parvulescu led a spirited performance of the evening's curtain raiser - the Coronation March of 1883. The rock solid brass and precise string playing evidenced a level of artistry that this occasion piece rarely receives.

Ms. Josefowicz offered a reading of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto that dusted away musical cobwebs that come with repeated performances. Her gutsy approach was filled with strong contrasts. She could thin her tone down to a slender thread, linger over long romantic stanzas, and play with Magyar abandon within a single movement. Every bar was imbued with an arresting variety of glowing colors and flawless intonation. Ms. Josefowicz's soulful version of the Canzonetta was followed by a sizzling, dare devil rendition of the Finale taken at lightening speed. 

Tchaikovsky's rarely played Symphony No.1 (Winter Dreams) has long been a Tilson Thomas specialty. He brought balletic fluidity and excitement to the opening Allegro tranquillo. His spacious tempo and the rich, focused tone of the violins found the deep Russian melancholy that permeates the Adagio cantabile. The bright sound of Dwight Parry's oboe and Alice Dade's flute underscored the music's aristocratic nobility. Tilson Thomas' exhilarating reading of the Finale highlighted the ensemble's dynamic brass and incandescent strings. With the coda taken at a fierce clip, the brilliant concluding string flourishes were like musical sunshine greeting the joy of spring. 

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