Review: Rare performances from Youth Orchestra

Canberra Youth Orchestra, Dukas, Bottesini and Sibelius, conducted by Rowan Harvey-Martin, at Llewellyn Hall, December 16. Reviewed by Helen Musa

A SUNDAY performance of remarkable originality concluded a bumper year for  Canberra Youth Orchestra and marked a departure of concertmaster Natalia Harvey for further studies at the Australian National Academy of Music. 

Retiring concert master Natalia Harvey and conductor Rowan Harvey-Martin with orchestra

Retiring concert master Natalia Harvey and conductor Rowan Harvey-Martin with orchestra

With artistic director and  eminent  violinist Rowan Harvey-Martin holding the baton, the fall orchestra began with an evocative performance of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” by Paul Dukas, revealing a capacity not only to strike the strident notes for which youth orchestras are often known, but also to elicit a sense of mischief and near-silence from their instruments.

The central work in  the concert was a very rare performance – too rare, as Harvey-Martin noted – of the Double Bass Concerto No.2 in B minor by  Giovanni Bottesini, performed by soloist Kyle Daniel, who, along with cellist Emma Rayner, clarinettist Tom Azoury  and pianist Emily Buckley, had won the 2012 Canberra Youth Music Concerto Competition.

This unusual performance was varied in tone, with Daniel’s bass so dominant and haunting that it would have it benefited from a much larger string orchestra.

The final work of the concept was a fiery version of Sibelius’ Symphony No1 in E minor Op.39,  a work perfectly chosen to show off the sensitivity and versatility of these musicians.

As one of their tutors remarked to me, “the great thing about these players is that they don’t know how hard what they’re doing is.”

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of Canberra Youth Orchestra and it has chosen to celebrate the year in the best possible way, with  musical performances.

The year has demonstrated the orchestra’s commitment to community-focused events in  the light-hearted “Not Strictly Ballroom” in March, a touch of  Tchaikovsky, Strauss and Offenbach for Government House Open Day in the same month, and special-purpose performances for  Legacy and Questacon.

A collaborative inclination saw them  join Canberra Dance Development Centre in June for a Shakespeare-oriented program of Sibelius, Walton, Prokofiev and Delius and, the Llewellyn Choir in November 4, in spectacular performances of Borodin, Orff and Bernstein.

But Canberra Youth Orchestra does not restrict itself to popular favourites,  and without doubt the high point of the year was the September concert in Llewellyn Hall, featuring pianist Bernadette Harvey, by showcasing the orchestra’s capacity in the Australian premiere of Kevin Puts’ Piano Concerto “Night.” as well as works by Aaron Copland, Pehr Henrik Nordgren and Carl Vine.

We look forward to seeing what the orchestra has in mind for the coming centenary year.


3 Responses to “Review: Rare performances from Youth Orchestra”

  1. John Bellows
    December 13, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    It’s a shame this was the last decent concert by Canberra Youth Orchestra, nothing has been produced in 2013 that comes even close to being up to this standard.

    • Kenny Saw
      January 18, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

      CYO musicians do the best they can. Canberra has many good young orchestral musicians, but most are steering away from the CYO. Why? Where are they performing now?

      • John Bellows
        January 20, 2014 at 11:35 am #

        Your right Kenny. CYO/CYM members really try their best. It does seem however that the organisation has taken a step backwards and is no longer giving our young musicians the stimulation they require. I would be interested in knowing if this is something that runs through the whole organisation or is it just CYO? If it is an organisation wide problem then I think the ACT Government needs to look at how and who it funds as I believe our children, deserve the best that we can give them not just the minimum required for recurrent funding. I certainly hope that the organisation has not degraded to a point where it only exists to boost conductors and others egos. It was never what this organisation was created to do so many years ago.

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