Large audience thrills to triumphant performance

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Leonard Weiss conducting the Canberra Youth Orchestra. Photo: Peter Hislop

Music / “Carmina Burana”. Canberra Youth Orchestra. At Llewellyn Hall,  Saturday. June 29. Reviewed by Ian McLean

CONDUCTOR Leonard Weiss has experienced quite an incredible past few weekends.   

Two weeks ago he conducted the world premiere of Michael Dooley’s new piano concerto, last weekend he worked with Music de Camera for their “Vivaldi Recomposed” concert then here he is controlling huge forces to produce an energetic and exciting performance of “Carmina Burana”.    

For a conductor that is an amazing body of repertoire to study, rehearse and present in a three-week period, but it is fitting testimony to the talent, diligence and dedication of this young Canberra musician who, at just 26, has made a significant impact on the music scene in our city during the past few years.

The much loved “Carmina Burana” is a 25 short-movement setting of medieval poetry by German composer Carl Orff that looks at the wild side of 13th century life, the highs and lows of romance and the beauty of nature.   

It is noted for its rhythmic complexity, unusually wide range of tricky time signatures and constant, rapid time changes.

Conductor Weiss maintained a tight grip over the multi-facetted and ever changing musical moods with positive, clear, clean and decisive direction.   

This leadership produced a pleasing confidence amongst the 60 players of the Canberra Youth Orchestra who appeared to relish the challenges of the piece with enthusiasm and generally fine playing.   

While there was imperfect intonation in the softer, exposed movements (brass in the 3rd and 4th movements, for example) and hesitancy on occasions, the overall sound was very good.   

Playing from the woodwind section was of exceptional quality throughout, the large percussion and keyboard group handled the rhythmic difficulties with accurate flair and the strings were solid, well in tune and pleasing in ensemble balance.   

Counter-tenor Tobias Cole performs with the Canberra Youth Orchestra. Photo: Peter Hislop

The louder sections (eg the oft utilised in films and TV shows “O Fortuna”) featured a maturity of overall sound usually associated with much more experienced orchestras. 

The Canberra Choral Society, well prepared by music director Dan Walker, displayed excellent dynamic control and contrast with particularly clean diction and most precise phrase endings.   

The joyful singing from the sopranos in their solo capacity was delightful whilst the male choristers enjoyed their time “In the Tavern” with clipped and neat phrasing.

The Canberra Children’s Choir was more than just cute in its well rehearsed contribution and they were joined by the well disciplined Seasoned Voices Choir for the latter movements of the performance.

The three soloists were all impressive with baritone Andrew O’Connor particularly so. His range is incredible and is beautifully pure at both ends of the spectrum.   

The Canberra Youth Orchestra. Photo: Peter Hislop

Quality of sound from soprano Rachael Duncan was stunning, particularly in her unaccompanied moments, and tenor Tobias Cole was appropriately theatrical, as well as musically accurate, as he sang the sad lament of a swan being roasted!

Collectively, this was a triumphant performance enjoyed by a large and appreciative audience that occupied virtually every seat in the stalls area of Llewellyn Hall.   

Deservedly, the greatest accolades of the night were directed towards Weiss. His contribution has been outstanding and he was fittingly farewelled by CYO in this, his final appearance with the orchestra, before studying a Masters in Music (Conducting) at the Peabody Conservatorium in Baltimore, US.

Typically, Leonard has much more repertoire to study in coming weeks as he is to conduct concerts with two other organisations, the Canberra Sinfonia and the National Capital Orchestra, before he departs in August.

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