Last December, Kent Nagano and Stuart Canin unveiled the Berkeley Akademie Ensemble, a project designed to cultivate "explorations of style" and "develop ensemble technical skills" (as the organization describes its goals). Thursday marked the Akademie's second concert, held in Berkeley's First Congregational Church. One way in which the Akademie challenges its musicians is through its revival of the practice (pre-19th century) of the conductorless orchestra. In performances of C.P.E. Bach's Symphony in C Major, W. 182, No. 3 (1773), and Stravinsky's Apollon musagète (1927), the Akademie players relied only on each other, with occasional help from Canin as concertmaster, to stay together in these two demanding scores. Playing without a conductor is especially daunting in C.P.E. Bach's schizophrenic music. Even the most tranquil passages can give way to outbursts of 16th and 32nd notes without a moment's warning. Perhaps out of necessity, the Akademie minimized contrasts in dynamics and expressive character in order to pull off the feat. The ensemble managed to keep together while navigating the score, but the composer's erratic and improvisatory style was sometimes lost. In an effort to give the music shape, crescendos and decrescendos were applied almost perfunctorily. This did not greatly diminish the orchestra's achievement, however. The downsized ensemble (consisting only of string instruments and harpsichord), coupled with the church's vibrant acoustics, provided the best of both worlds: the textural clarity of an "early music" ensemble with the majestic resonance of a full orchestra. If the liveliness of the "Classical style" was somewhat tamed, it is a sound that modern audiences have nonetheless grown accustomed to, largely through the legacy of the second composer of the evening. Apollon musagète belongs to Stravinsky's "Neoclassical" period, a particularly cold, [a]stringent phase of the composer’s career. Disdaining as he did the emotional excesses of Romanticism, Stravinsky might well have welcomed the orchestra sans conductor as a way to minimize the "deformation" (his word for performers' personal interpretation) imposed on his works.