9 January 2016
Review by Len Power
Since 1948, Australia’s most talented young musicians have come together at the Australian Youth Orchestra National Music Camp to make music, exchange knowledge and draw inspiration from others who share their passion. This year over 220 participants took part in the intense two week program, which comprises of rehearsals, tutorials, public performances, broadcasts and workshops. There are four major orchestral public concerts – one in the afternoon and one in the evening on the two Saturdays of the music camp. There is no admission charge for the public to attend these concerts in Llewellyn Hall.
The first concert had works by Handel, Veress, Ravel and Schumann. Three large orchestras drawn from the music camp participants were on show and what a show it was. Smalley Chamber Orchestra, directed by Monica Curro, played an exquisite Concerto Grosso by Handel, followed by a fascinating and atmospheric set of Four Transylvanian Dances by Veress. Bishop Orchestra then played a rousing Rapsodie Espagnole by Ravel. It was conducted by Australia’s Brad Cohen, now Artistic Director of West Australian Opera. The final work for this concert was Schumann’s Symphony No. 3, played beautifully by Alexander Orchestra, which was conducted by visiting American, Erik Nielsen, who currently works in Europe.
The second concert began with the Overture to Oberon by Weber with the Alexander Orchestra conducted again by Erik Nielsen. This was followed by the Smalley Chamber Orchestra with Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro and then the highlight of the concert – Astor Piazzolla’s Aconcagua with James Crabb on solo accordion. The first movement was played by the Bishop Orchestra and the second and third movements were played by the Alexander Orchestra. It was clear as this work progressed how much both orchestras enjoyed playing this dramatic and exciting work. James Crabb’s solo playing was superb. With a nod to Canberra’s Summernats, Bishop Orchestra, under conductor Brad Cohen, played ‘Short Ride In A Fast Machine’, a delightfully quirky piece by John Adams. This was followed by Ravel’s Daphnis and Cloe, Suite No. 1. Both pieces clearly displayed the strong musicianship of the orchestra members.
One of the unique aspects of attending these concerts is to experience orchestras of a much greater size than normal. In the dramatic passages of the works, the orchestras nearly lift the roof off the Llewellyn Hall.
These concerts are entertaining and exciting. The fact that the players are students and the concerts are free to attend in no way means they are of a lower quality than concerts given by professionals. These young musicians really show what they can do under world-class conductors and when accompanying top musicians like James Crabbe.
Len Power’s reviews can also be heard on Artsound FM’s ‘Artcetera’ program from 9.00am Saturdays.