Review of Perth Youth Orchestra’s Summer Concert

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THE latest hugely impressive performance by Perth Youth Orchestra under conductor Allan Young was their Summer Concert in Perth Concert Hall on Monday, the programme of which mirrored the varied repertoire of their recent well received tour of Germany.

One can only imagine the hours of preparation which went into this concert, such was the confidence shown by these young musicians in playing complex pieces with maturity and aplomb.

For their high standard of playing and impeccable turnout they deserve nothing but the highest of praise.

The well-planned programme opened with a surprise bonus: four orchestra members – Rachel Clark, Rebecca Graham, Kirsty Paterson-Hunter and Heather Sadler – showing their prowess as Highland dancers for the first movement of Malcolm Arnold’s Scottish Dances.

This was a totally appropriate concert opener, beautifully played, the allegretto particularly evocative and with its ebb and flow pitched with precision, while the short con brio was played with suitable elan.

Variety was one of the hallmarks of this concert, none more so than the seldom-heard Concerto for Xylophone by Toshiro Mayuzumi. A busy little piece, it was a joy to watch Finlay Turnbull’s skill on the xylophone, and well done to the orchestra for keeping up with the fast and furious tempo. The cheers and prolonged applause for Finlay were fully merited.

What can be said about the pre-interval delight which was Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with soloist Andrew Forbes? I fell in love with this classical/jazz fusion as a teenager and it has remained in my pleasure zone over the decades. And I’m so pleased that in the hands of Andrew Forbes, Allan Young and Perth Youth Orchestra, justice was fully done to this timeless classic.

From the famous opening clarinet trill played by Joe Norris through Gershwin’s melodic themes and Andrew’s mastery on the keys, this was a tour de force for Perth Youth Orchestra. Their phrasing and tempo changes were spot-on, particularly from Andrew whose expressive solos showed maturity far beyond his youth. Hopefully these young musicians engaged with Rhapsody in Blue as much as the audience enjoyed listening!

The post-interval opener was a very contrasting piece – a movement from Elgar’s Concerto for Cello and Orchestra with soloist Rachel Steele, whose confident performance evoked the passion of Elgar’s work and was matched by excellent support from the orchestra.

There was a rousing end to the concert programme with Khachaturian’s suite, Widow of Valencia. Full of up-beat dances and melodies, the orchestra showed their mettle and never once lowered the bar on their exceptionally high standard. The second of the six movements – Serenade – was suitably flirtatious, Song was a grand orchestral piece, and the Humorous Song was indeed humorous to listen to but its twists and turns must have been hellish to play – well done! The Intermezzo and Dance were both played with a flourish by all sections of the orchestra.

After well-deserved ovation, the Symphony Orchestra became a Big Band for an encore, weaving well-known blues and swing classics into a colourful and most enjoyable medley.

The one criticism to come out of this concert was the lack of support from Perthshire’s so-called classical music enthusiasts. It was not a poor turnout, but considering the likely full houses for many of the forthcoming Perth Concert Series, it should certainly have been better.

Alison Anderson

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