Amazing Australian youth orchestra

The Western Australian Youth Orchestra at the School of the Arts Concert Hall.
The Western Australian Youth Orchestra at the School of the Arts Concert Hall.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/WA YOUTH ORCHESTRA

REVIEW / CONCERT

WESTERN AUSTRALIAN YOUTH ORCHESTRA IN CONCERT

School of the Arts Concert Hall

Sunday

The Western Australian Youth Orchestra was last heard here in 2009, when it performed a concert alongside The Orchestra of the Music Makers at the Esplanade Concert Hall.

This year, it had the stage to itself with an excellent concert led by its music director Peter Moore, who is often better remembered as the irrepressible host of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra's wildly popular Babies Proms.

Contemporary Australian music featured prominently on its programme, with two works lasting about 10 minutes each opening both halves of the concert.

Iain Grandage's Out Of Time (2004) was a highly tonal showpiece that highlighted different aspects of the young orchestra's prowess, including instrumental solos and ensemble playing.

Minimalist in feel, the music chugged along agreeably, resembling the wizardry of Harry Potter movie music and the lyrical variety that accompanies wildlife documentaries.

Its message was an exhortation to seize the day as time was running out, one obliged by the young musicians who put on a vivid and stirring performance.

Rebecca Erin Smith's Murakami's Well (2016) was more abstract, but no less listenable, inspired by the fantasies in Toru's dried-up well in Japanese Haruki Murakami's novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

Almost a concerto for orchestra in miniature, the riot of colours conjured up by various instrument groups and solos relived moments of Bartok, Sibelius and Stravinsky without sounding derivative.

However, it was the influence of Debussy which ultimately dominated the more animated section, cranking up the tempo to an ecstatic close.

In between both works, Montreal- born violinist Alexandre Da Costa (now residing in Perth) was soloist in an unabashed romanticised orchestration of Tomaso Vitali's violin classic, the Chaconne In G Minor. Forget its supposed baroque origin, for Costa's playing exuded a sizeable vibrato with opulent ornamentations to match.

The showboating continued in Vittorio Monti's Czardas, where the gypsy elan in this half-tipsy dance held sway. The impromptu encore was an even longer work - all three movements of Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs), where both soloist and orchestra luxuriated in a display of string fireworks.

The orchestra completed its demanding programme with the final two movements of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 In F Minor.

String pizzicatos were the mainstay in the Scherzo movement, and if one felt the players were somewhat off the pace, this was made up by the woodwinds which picked up speed and some neat brass chorale work.

Caution was thrown to the wind for the tempestuous finale, which provided many exciting moments, not least when the Fate motif which opened the symphony returned, blared out by the brass.

More Australiana appropriately made up the rest of the encore in Michael Hurst's The Swagman's Promenade. As its title suggests, this is a fantasy on The Waltzing Matilda and other popular Australian tunes. Fair dinkum, it made for a jolly good show.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 13, 2016, with the headline 'Amazing Australian youth orchestra'. Print Edition | Subscribe