RSNO:SONDERGARD; CARGILL: USHER HALL 4 Oct 2019

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Imperial Palace (Hofburg) Vienna

 

“All in all a promising start to what looks like a first-class season.  Bring it on.”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars Nae Bad

The Season Opener for the RSNO always gets a buzz going at the Usher Hall and tonight was no exception.  Moreover, the happy occasion was also music director Thomas Sondergard’s 50th Birthday, which the audience and orchestra recognised by singing and playing “Happy Birthday” at the end of the concert, amply led by mezzo soprano Karen Cargill.

For the repertoire we were taken unashamedly and full on into early twentieth century Vienna: Richard Strauss, Alban Berg and Gustav Mahler.  There is no doubt in my mind that the capital of the once great Austria-Hungarian Empire was the world capital of music from the eighteenth to the early twentieth century.  Lots of fabulous orchestration, complex rhythmic and compositional patterns, and brass.  Oh, the brass!  Eight horns for the Mahler.  Seven timpanies.  And the opening Strauss wasn’t shy about using them too.

The evening started with Richard Strauss’s Don Juan, an eighteen-minute escapade if not quite a romp comprising complex and multi-varying patterns of tempo and orchestration, the latter being the composer’s undoubted strongpoint.  Loud and soft, quick and slow, joyful and sinister that amply caught the character of the eponymous antihero.  Considering this was the first piece of the evening the orchestra was well on top of it, although it possibly lacked a little in terms of overall togetherness and smoothness which was perhaps unavoidable in a piece of such variety.  It made a tremendous start to the evening and set the tone of enjoyment and engagement.

Next we heard an early piece from Alban Berg, Seven Early Songs.  These slow, contemplative pieces allowed formidable Scottish mezzo soprano Karen Cargill to show off her beautiful rich and mellow tone along with a perfectly suited vocal range for a piece that could well have suited a contralto.  I was stunned by the quality of her voice. The orchestra accompanied her sensitively and effectively.  This was Berg in early, melodious form (1905-08) written under the instruction of Schoenberg, whose teaching, if not his composition, was decidedly traditional.  However the later orchestration (1928) gave a hint of his subsequent more complex compositional style.  The orchestra accompanied Cargill with sensitivity and empathy.

Following the interval came Mahler’s Symphony No 1 in D Major, the Titan.  An accessible and entirely enjoyable work in four movements it is a useful entry point to the composer, with all the mixture of poignant melodies and crash bang wallops that is his stock in trade.  Sondergard’s interpretation was a breath of fresh air, highly detailed bringing out every nuance of the piece, and the individual sections of the orchestra excelled from the piccolos and leader’s violin solo to the full-on brass and percussion. Yet perhaps because of this, I did not quite get a feeling of ‘wholeness’ from the orchestra because of this detailed interpretation.

All in all a promising start to what looks like a first-class season.  Bring it on.

 

 

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Reviewer: Charles Stokes (Seen 4 October)

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BRITTEN-SHOSTAKOVICH FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA: PIKE; LATHAM-KOENIG : USHER HALL 22 SEPT 2019

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Jennifer Pike

“The playing was quite superb, and I could have been fooled into thinking I was listening to a world class orchestra”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars:Outstanding

The Usher Hall’s excellent series of Sunday afternoon concerts from orchestras all over the world commenced its 2019/20 season with an almost unsustainably high standard.  The newly formed Britten-Shostakovich Festival Orchestra, the brainchild of Artistic Director Jan Latham Koenig (a British conductor working in Moscow) and our Ambassador over there, Sir Laurie Bristow, with a membership of Russian and British members all auditioned for their posts, and formed to sustain the legacy of the 2019 Year of Music between Britain and Russia, as well as the close relationship between the eponymous composers, kicked off the proceedings.

Whilst not overtly political or peace promoting in concept (one thinks of the highly successful Barenboim/Said Divan Orchestra made up of Israelis and Palestinians) the combination of musician from both countries is not without political relevance in these troubled times and can be only a force for good.

With an itinerary ranging from Sochi to Basingstoke, the band hit Edinburgh towards the end of their tour and were well into their stride.

As with all the Usher Hall’s Sunday afternoon concerts, the programme was immediately recognisable, accessible and undemanding, but none the worse for that.  The playing was quite superb, and I could have been fooled into thinking I was listening to a world class orchestra, emotions were surely touched.

The programme started with Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes by Benjamin Britten.  I was struck by the clarity of the strings, warm brass tones and relaxed cohesion of the band as a whole.

We were then treated to Ralph Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending and privileged to hear Jennifer Pike handle the violin solo. This young lady has blossomed since her arguably winning BBC Young Musician of the Year too young, and this, the second time I have heard her play it, was a more rounded, secure rendition that let the glorious music speak for itself, the sign of real artistry.  As a violinist of meagre ability myself, I first heard the work played by a school colleague in the Abbey of Dorchester on Thames in the 1960s who went on to be a professor of music at the Royal Academy. I have known it and loved it all my adult life and Jennifer really delivered. Moreover, the orchestra went untroubled into accompaniment mode rather than performing mode, effectively and subtly.

Shostakovich’s Suite for Variety Stage Orchestra was a delightful raucous romp showing the composer’s lighter side and sent us chuckling into the interval.

After refreshment, something more serious, Prokofiev’s Extracts from Romeo and Juliet.  Six extracts were chosen, starting with the proud “Montagues and Capulets”, later the searing agony of Death of Tybalt, ending with the serene, if troubled, The Death of Juliet.  In all six episodes the orchestra was more than equal to the task which they played with the right balance of restraint and emotion, never brassy nor vulgar, representing their fine musical training and technique.

Our finale was, of course, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.  Plenty of opportunities, but none taken, for brassiness or vulgarity here, but, again, a finely judged performance, in particular with a huge tuba, big bass drum amply representing cannon fire, and the triumphant tubular bells.  All credit to the incredibly versatile and unflustered percussionist, Uliana Scherbakova, and tubaist Grady Hassan.

One wonders why this excellent orchestra was not performing at the Proms, but of course it was not formed when the programme planning took place.  To get such an accomplished band up and running so quickly is a real achievement and shows the energy and vitality that is the international music scene today.

 

outstanding

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Reviewer: Charles Stokes(Seen 22 September)

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Ensemble 1880, Wagner and Brahms, Institut francais d’Ecosse, 13 August 2019

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“By the end of the evening the smiles were huge, the applause loud, and happiness was in the air. “

Editorial Rating:3 Stars

There are many myths and half truths circulating around composers with interesting if not scandalous private lives, and Wagner, along with Liszt, is probably at the top of the list.  An uncompromising man of great passion, he was by no means a modern day commitment phobe and the work we heard tonight, along with its backstory, gives ample proof of this. It is, in fact, a consummation.

Cosima, Wagner’s first wife and twenty four years his junior, was the illegitimate daughter of Franz Liszt, herself born of passion.  Married to Hans Von Bulow, a student of Liszt and a celebrated conductor, far too young at 18 and bearing him two children, feeling increasing coldness from her husband, she fell first for Wagner’s music, and then him, having met when the Von Bulows stayed with Wagner for the weekend.  There followed a long term affair siring three children out of wedlock before Von Bulow relented and the couple married.

At the time of writing Siegfried Idyll in what has to be the ultimate birthday present, the musicians settled on the stair that led up to his wife’s bedroom inside their Swiss villa on the birthday morn so they could perform a symphonic poem that Wagner had written as a celebration of her birthday as well as to mark the joyous occasion of the birth of their son Siegfried the year before.  Cosima awoke to the sound of music wafting into her bedroom and at first she thought she was dreaming. Beats being woken up by the radio alarm, doesn’t it?

Why I had always thought this story improbable is that most people hear the work played by a full orchestra of a hundred or so players,or at least a full string orchestra.  How could they all fit on the stairs? Much revised, the version was originally written for an ensemble of fifteen as we heard it tonight (albeit 13 desks, close enough), so the story begins to ring true.  For proof, read Cosima’s diaries.

I tried to get all this into my head when listening to our band this evening, Ensemble 1880.  On paper a supergroup with several principals and past principals of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, this particular band has an esoteric approach to the music, neither contemporary nor original instruments, but trying to approximate the sound at the time of early recorded music.  One really has to question this approach; while period instruments and arrangements have their place, who is interested in early recordings with all its sonic limitations, especially in this day of remastering? Moreover, Siegried Idyll was first performed in 1870 and Brahms Serenade No 1 in 1858.  Director Alec Frank-Gemmill explained this approach while showing us his 1920 horn.  The first shellac disc came out in 1895. Is this not all a faux concept?

The reversal of playing order should have been a signal.  Everybody had come to hear the Wagner, hence it was originally put on last.  We were told we were to hear it first. It was thoroughly disappointing and under rehearsed.  Individual playing was competent, but there was no feeling of ensemble, a complete absence of legato with wind and brass in particular failing to gel.  The two horns struggled to hit the note first time, oboe jerky, and the patient trumpet who had to sit there for the first fifteen minutes was too loud when he did make his entrance.  Too much of the heavy lifting of the theme was taken by the first violin, using inappropriate glissando. Only in the closing two minutes of the piece did we get an idea of what this group was capable of.  With the end in sight they relaxed and played in a smooth, together style which one had wished we had experienced from the start.

Had there been an interval I would have left, but I was glad I didn’t.  Now a nonet to reflect the original scoring of the work, the ensemble gave a superb, confident nay exemplary performance of the Brahms Serenade No 1 with some frankly virtuoso playing in particular by Alec Frank-Gemmill on horn and Georgia Browne mastering the tricky wooden flute.  The strings played together like they did every day. Forty minutes of joy.

Such is the nature of live music, a fickle creature.  Something wasn’t working even in rehearsal in the Wagner, I suspect, hence the playing order swap and the look of restrained relief on the players’ faces when it was over and somewhat brief muted applause from the audience.  By the end of the evening the smiles were huge, the applause loud, and happiness was in the air.

 

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Reviewer: †Charles Stokes (Seen 13 August)

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Guitar: Postcards from Spain: Stephen Morrison: St Andrew’s and St George’s West August 8 and 11 (60 minutes)

“He let the music speak for him, and as a teacher, he was able to establish a quiet, understated rapport entirely appropriate for the appreciative audience in front of him.”

Editorial Rating:3 Stars

A summer Fringe Thursday afternoon was deceptively sunny and warm, so I was pleased to see a good crowd in the cool of the church.

The guitar is an easy musical instrument to play badly and a fiendishly difficult one to play well.  With frets clearly marked and six strings positioned level (as opposed to arched as on the violin family) it is easy to strum, and the vast panoply of pop music is based on just three chords.  Easy, especially if a pickup is doing the amplification for you.  But when it comes to something more sophisticated, whether it be the complex rhythms of the Bossa Nova or the plaintive wail of the Flamenco, we are in different, dangerous and exposed territory.  The guitar gives off surprisingly little sound; the left hand requires the iron application of finger tips, the right the looseness of a painter’s brush yet with thumb and three fingers all operating independently. That’s why I took it up late in life partially to ward off Alzheimer’s, for it is a real brain stretcher. And it looks so easy…….

On Thursday we were in the company of one man and his guitar, an American born, Scotland domiciled since 1989 Stephen Morrison who took us through a catalogue of music that ranged from the Renaissance to the twentieth century including such greats as Fernando Sor and Joaquin Rodrigo (yes, the one who wrote that concerto) in an hour long afternoon of entertainment.  Stephen Morrison is an accomplished, modest guitarist who said not a word during his recital.  It wasn’t necessary for, of course, he let the music speak for him, and as a teacher, he was able to establish a quiet, understated rapport entirely appropriate for the appreciative audience in front of him.

Three Pavans by Luys Milan (1500-1561) played in the lutenist style (and originally written for a vihuela, a guitar like instrument of six double course strings that were apparently tuned in unison) took us back immediately to the sixteenth century, followed by Les Folies d’Espagne & Menuet Op 15a by Fernando Sor (1778-1839) albeit written over 250 years later, demonstrated again the plucked chord style of writing and playing as Sor set out his stall as the one of the great composers of classical guitar as we have come to know it.

We then firmly entered the late nineteenth century of guitar composition and heard two pieces by Francisco Tarrega (1852-1909), Danza Mora and Recuerdos de la Alhambra, interspersed with Aranjuez, ma pensée by Joaquin Rodrigo (1901-1999).  The Rodrigo was arranged by the composer in a monophonic setting with very occasional chording.  Meant to show off one of the most heartfelt melodies of all time and pleasingly familiar, it did not work, partly because of the deeply restrained, unflashy nature of the guitarist’s style. Alhambra, also deeply familiar, somehow worked better.

Centrepiece of the Recital was a break from the Spanish composers, Scottish composer Thea Musgrave’s (b. 1928) Postcards from Spain (Five Serenades).   The work, written in 1995, seeks to conjure a mood of impressionism but with the exception of the second movement Molto Espressivo came across as largely abstract in style.

Stephen Morrison concluded the recital with Sonata Op.61 by Joaquin Turina (1882-1949), a pleasant piece in three movements where the impressionistic reflections of Paris were effective, and Preludio Y Danza by Julian Orbon (1925-1991).  An Asturian who moved to Cuba and then New York this was his only composition for guitar, and like all good things, left one wishing he had written more.

So, overall our hour long recital was an interesting musical journey through the musical history of the classical guitar, amply demonstrating its potential for technique, notwithstanding its limitations in dynamics.

 

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Reviewer: Charles Stokes (Seen 8 August)

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RSNO and Chorus: Sondergaard: Clark Evans: Belshazzar’s Feast etc 31 May 19

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RSNO Chorus

 

“The RSNO goes from strength to strength in its legitimate aspiration to world class status.”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars

Whilst there are a number of music critics who cannot even read music, let alone play a musical instrument, I take nothing away from their appreciation and interpretation of the genre, after all, you do not need to be a painter to appreciate art, or a writer to appreciate literature.  Moreover, those of a similar trade are not always especially kind to their colleagues.

 

The reason I write this is that as a lifelong choral singer one of the reasons I wanted to review Sir William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast was that, conversely, I have never sung it (although I know the work very well having first come across it in my teens).  This is because it is fiendishly difficult to sing.  I have pleaded with several chorus directors at the beginning of the season to include it in the programme, only to be met with a sad refusal – I bet the chorus director wished we were good enough to sing it too.

 

So any choir that gets up and sings Belshazzar’s Feast has my immediate respect no matter what sort of a hash they make of it, which, of course, they don’t.  The RSNO on Friday were no exception.

 

The work is just short of 40 minutes so does not of itself a programme make.  The RSNO, always creative in its programme configuration, excelled itself on this its season finale.  We started with Sibelius’s Suite, Belshazzar’s Feast. Ever heard of it?  I hadn’t.  Sibelius wrote it for a theatre production for his friend Hjalmar Procope’s play of the same name in 1907 and it was premiered along with his third symphony.  The music fared better than the play and was reworked into a suite of four pieces lasting around a quarter of an hour.  Apart from a suggestion of an oriental bazaar in the opening moments of the first piece with cymbals, strings and woodwind it was superseded by Sibelian Nordic overtones and did little to convey the majesty of Babylon, more Fry’s Turkish Delight and a picnic in Scandinavian Sylvania.  Well played it made for a pleasant opening number.

 

I cannot think of a cogent reason to include Elgar’s Cello Concerto other than it is a magnificent work and tonight was played by a Norwegian, Truls Mork, thereby channelling a somewhat tenuous Scandinavian connection with the Sibelius, I suppose.  In his introduction Music Director Thomas Sondergard said more or less the same.  For music writers of my age it is near impossible to get beyond the Jacqueline du Pre/Barbirolli recording of 1965 (subsequently surpassed in passion, if not interpretation, with husband to be Daniel Barenboim in 1974).  So what of Truls Mork? A salutary lesson in experience trumping prejudice.  Mork took no prisoners in the opening Adagio-Moderato which he played with authority and conviction, rich tone, and was clearly going to play second fiddle to no predecessor.  Nailing the dramatic moving up the scaleup the scale crescendos he avoided schmaltz yet still was able to convey every inch of restrained yet total emotional commitment.  Another rebuke to those who say only the English can truly convey Elgar.  The subsequent movements showed not only mature bravura playing but a real connection with the orchestra, the more surprising he had not played with them for six years.  Bravo, this alone made the evening a worthwhile lesson in musical appreciation.  A fine performance.

 

And now to the main event, the post interval audience suitably armed up for this brash, full on choral onslaught that is Sir William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast.  First, hats off to the 100 plus RSNO chorus, all amateurs, who sang with precision, clarity and conviction in this immensely difficult to sing piece with its chromatics, close harmonies and dissonance, including shouting “Slain” completely together and extremely loud after the famous “Mene, Mene Tekel Upharsin”  This chorus had most certainly not been weighed in the balance and found wanting. Take a bow, Chorus Director Gregory Batsleer.

 

Baritone Anthony Clark Evans provided a rich dramatic and suitably sinister narrative and was amply suited for the part.  The orchestra was spot on all the way through this full-on unrelenting work. Three trombones made the noise of six to open proceedings and along with the clear diction of the chorus we were all (the men at least) made to feel a teeny bit uncomfortable with the opening from Isaiah “They shall be taken away and be eunuchs”.  Some of the most glorious short orchestral passages accompanied “Praise ye the God of Gold…” and “Thus in Babylon, the mighty city, Belshazzar the King made a great feast….” And all guns blazing in the finale “Then sing aloud to God our strength…Alleluia!”

 

Sometimes dismissed as all brass and noise, and eschewed by Sir Thomas Beecham as “a work which shall never be heard again” Belshazzar’s Feast is now rightly thought of as the most important English choral piece since Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius some 30 years before, both in their very different ways being essentially about redemption.

 

This evening brought to a close in Edinburgh the RSNO’s first season under Thomas Sondergard as Music Director.  It has been a record season in terms of attendance, including, most encouragingly, a big increase in attendees under 26 years old.  This is not the first, and I am confident will not be the last, occasion when I write “The RSNO goes from strength to strength in its legitimate aspiration to world class status.”  Well done, friends.

 

 

 

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Reviewer: Charles Stokes (Seen31 May)

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Japan PO. Inkinen, Lill (Usher Hall 14 April ‘19)

“If the orchestra had been playing this piece as an exam they would have got 100%.”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars

 

A decade ago my wife treated me to a weekend in Vienna, and thoughtfully procured tickets for the Sunday morning concert at the Musikverein.  I remember musicians of the highest calibre drawn from the Vienna Philharmonic playing easy on the ear classics supremely well, and afterwards watching the respectable citizens of that city go off to the Imperial Hotel for lunch.  It could have been straight out of Luis Bunuel’s 1972 classic Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie.

 

Edinburgh offers the same kind of thing but with the concert in the afternoon, and with musicians sourced from all over the world.  The combination of well-known works played by orchestras from exotic places, the audience having lunched well, provides an attractive draw, although I am afraid post prandial snoring was evident in one or two places, and the informal dress code disgraced the locals compared to the Viennese, or the smartly turned out Japanese cohort present.

 

In addition to providing two works of easy familiarity, Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto and Sibelius’s Second Symphony, to their great credit and wisdom the band presented two accessible lesser known works, Rautavaara’s In the Beginning (referencing conductor Petari Inkinen’s Finnish nationality) and Takemitsu’s Requiem for Strings, for the Japanese.  Both works held their own in terms of seriousness, if not length, compared to the masterpieces.

 

Einojuhani Rautavaara’s In the Beginning, written as recently as 2015, his final work before his death in 2016, was very much in the Finnish idiom, plenty of close harmony and skilful orchestration of brass.  Enjoyable, not too austere, it showcased the orchestra’s talent across the entire instrumental bandwith in just seven minutes; a strong beginning.

 

Just as I am puzzled by the number of recordings available of well-known works so I find it hard to write something new about them when often performed.  All one can really write about is the interpretation.  It is perhaps helpful that I heard Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 just a month ago in the same hall with young Turkish pianist Can Cakmur with the RSNO.  The 21 year old Turk found new life in the piece and tore the opening phrases off the piano in the opening Allegro con brio, and gently coaxed the scales in the Largo.  The 75 year old Lill was more measured, and played an exemplary, much more classic interpretation that I expect hadn’t changed much in fifty years.  It found great favour amongst the many septua/octogenarians present, and was immaculate, considered, uber competent, but as if classical musical interpretation had stood still since the great recordings of the sixties and seventies under the baton of the likes of von Karajan and Klemperer.

 

Toru Takemitsu’s Requiem for Strings (1975) was a piece one could easily have mistaken for being of Western provenance, (the composer having been influenced by Western music for most of his life) and while I cannot agree with the comparison some make with Barber’s Adagio for Strings , the piece in my view being more reminiscent of Michael Tippett, it was a restful, well orchestrated example of the post war idiom, written but ten years after Richard Strauss’s Metamorphosen for 23 solo strings.  Accessible, interesting and drawing one in, it faded into a beautiful ethereal ending.  The orchestra’s playing of their home piece was superb.

 

What to say of the finale, Sibelius’s Symphony No 2 in D minor, other than it is a glorious work and I don’t care how many times I listen to it?  The discipline, technique and intensely classical style of the orchestra ensured that we got a rendition that was free from schmaltz and true to the composer’s intentions.  It was a masterly performance, under the now obviously very talented baton of compatriot Finn Intiken, who drew everything out of the score from double bass, percussion and tubas to soaring strings, blaring brass and exquisite woodwind, notably the oboist.  If the orchestra had been playing this piece as an exam they would have got 100%.

 

It is a tribute to the Japan Philharmonic’s stamina that after this bravura rendition we were treated to seven minutes of peaceful wind down therapy with a beautifully played seven minutes of Sibelius’s Valse Triste as an encore. 

 

 

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Reviewer: Charles Stokes (Seen 14 April)

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NYOS: Chan, Osborne (Usher Hall: 12 April ’19)

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“I have never heard Pictures played so well.  Ever.  By anyone.”

Editorial Rating: 3 Stars: Nae Bad

 

There is much talk in educational, local political and musical circles about youth and classical music today and where it is going.  I have a slightly different take to those who wish instrument teaching to be free for all, who I think miss the point.  Musical appreciation for all certainly at the infant and possibly early primary stages, but nothing is more likely to put someone off its joys than to learn something because they have to rather than because they want to.  Instrumental technique requires commitment, dedication and practice.  Money that is freely spent on other leisure pursuits can usually be redirected if wanted.

 

Serious youth music is channelled by the National Youth Orchestras of Scotland, which is not so much an orchestra as a movement, comprising three orchestras and two jazz combos, with illustrious patrons such Sir James MacMillan and Nicola Benedetti.

 

It is greatly to the RSNO’s credit that they devote such commitment to youth music, the more so because they integrated the orchestra’s 40th season into their own along with the creation of a new partnership.   The young people had the privilege on the night of being under the baton of the RSNO’s Principal Guest Conductor, Elim Chan, and of accompanying the uber talented Steven Osborne in Rach3.

 

As the players came on stage and warmed up full of brio I knew we were going to be in for a fun evening, even if fuelled on enthusiasm alone.  I was dismayed that the house was only half to three quarters full, but of course every conceivable parent, grandparent and sibling was there.  Often youth orchestras are capable of the very highest standard of delivery.  We would see.

 

Accompanying a soloist requires a different type of playing than when it is an entirely orchestral piece, the dynamics are more accentuated, you have to play quieter than you would wish a lot of the time.  The NYOS clearly understood this under the accessible and supportive conducting of Elim Chan, but perhaps they hadn’t reckoned with the bravura playing of Steven Osborne in Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 3 In D minor, Op. 30To my utter astonishment, notwithstanding what I have said about Chan’s supportive style, she took the work really fast.  The tempo for the first movement is Allegro ma non tanto.  Clearly Chan forgot or chose to ignore the non tanto.  Boy!, it was fast, and Osborn played both fast and loud.  Very loud, it was an absolute virtuoso performance, but this meant the orchestra/soloist balance was often wrong with the orchestra playing too quietly apart from some confident solo instrumental passages.  As everybody settled in after the mammoth first movement the strings came into their own in the Intermezzo: Adagio with some exceptional pizzicato from the double basses (one of their proud parents was right in front of me and gladly pointed him out).  In the final movement Alla breve everyone had a good time as they brought this monumental, demanding work to a glorious conclusion.  Osborne rose from the piano stool, modestly took no bow alone and immediately referenced the orchestra.  He then treated us to something “quieter and slower”, one of Rachmaninov’s glorious preludes.

 

It transpired, after the interval, that this would be a “concert of two halves”, my slight reservations about some of the playing in Part One swept aside as the band was given their head in a full on performing, rather than accompanying role.  First up was Andrea Tarrodi’s (b. 1981) short orchestral piece Liguria, inspired by the composer’s 2011 visit to six of its small villages.  Dramatic from start to finish it showed off the orchestra’s credentials, enjoyable to listen to in the modern idiom, if somewhat derivative.  The waves depicting Onde reminded me of Debussy’s La Mer.

 

The final work in the programme was Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an ExhibitionThis is a work guaranteed to bring the house down, and what impressed me was the joy, yet discipline and sheer musical accomplishment that the young orchestra brought to it.  Not a hint of vulgarity, clear, taut delivery, and the full gamut of strings, wind, brass (including two bass tubas), percussion (including tubular bells and two harps) giving us the full big orchestra experience.  I slept on this before finally convincing myself of the veracity of the happy note that I wrote before leaving the auditorium:  “I have never heard Pictures played so well.  Ever.  By anyone.”  Well done NYOS, you are a testimony for youth music.

 

 

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Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)

Reviewer: Charles Stokes (Seen 12 April)

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