WITH the fairly youthful Leonard Weiss taking over as conductor, Canberra Youth Orchestra was keen to bill itself last night as “the most genuine youth orchestra in the country.”

Canberra Youth Orchestra directed by Leonard Weiss -photo Peter Hislop
Canberra Youth Orchestra directed by Leonard Weiss -photo Peter Hislop
Youthful, maybe, but not immature, for from the moment Weiss took up his baton to conduct Johann Strauss: “Die Fledermaus Overture”, a smooth, balanced sound was what we heard from this ensemble of young musicians. Indeed, the overture was so smooth as to be quiet until the “frenetic finale.”

The performance of Elgar’s “Nimrod” from “Enigma Variations” Opus 36 was another fine example of Weiss’ control as a conductor, as he elicited concentrated performance of this popular work.

Matthew Ventura and Leonard Weiss, photo Peter Hislop
Matthew Ventura and Leonard Weiss, photo Peter Hislop
But this spring concert really took off as Matthew Ventura, normally the principal flute for the orchestra, took the stage as soloist in Weber’s Bassoon Concerto in F major. A most unusual work in that the bassoon is rarely featured as a solo instrument, the soloist made his greatest impact in the crystal-clear, intensely dramatic opening movement. Having said that, it was obvious that the young musicians came to life in the lively final movement where their own instruments, balanced effectively with Ventura’s virtuosity.

After Weiss took the microphone to tell us of the 2016 Llewellyn Hall concert program, “Icons,” comprised of symphonies by Tchaikovsky, Dvo?ák, Sibelius and Brahms, with soloists and Louise Page and the pianistic Neemans, Teddy and Stephanie, the orchestra moved into its most focused and mature presentation of the evening, Mendelssohn’s Symphony No.3, Op.56, the so-called “Scottish Symphony”.

Based on a trip the composer made to Scotland when the composer was only 20, the Symphony begins with a sense of foreboding in a minor key (conjuring up the abandoned home of Mary Queen of Scots), beautifully understated in all sections.

A lively note was struck in the second movement, which features a kind of faux-Scottish folk melody actually composed by Mendelssohn. Here the orchestra displayed its flexibility, before the first violins took us into the third movement, the adagio.

The fourth and final movement saw the orchestra moving seamlessly (Mendelssohn preferred this symphony to be played without pause between movements) into the major theme on which the work concludes.

Lively, but in no way flashy, this performance gave the impression of dedicated an expert young musicians at the top of the game, auguring well for the future.

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