Friday, April 1, 2022

Canberra Symphony Youth Chamber Orchestra, Larry Sitsky Recital Room, Australian National University, March 29. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.


MUSICIANS aged 14–19 who have reached an advanced level on their instruments, performed in The Canberra Symphony Youth Chamber Orchestra (CSYCO, pronounced ‘psycho’) inaugural concert in the Larry Sitsky Recital Room at the Australian National University last night.

As part of the Kingsland Program for emerging artists, 15 to 20 ANU School of Music students under the mentorship of Canberra Symphony Orchestra (CSO) Concertmaster Kirsten Williams have the chance to extend their instrumental and ensemble skills in a like-minded peer group.

With little to no sign of nerves, Mila Haydon on violin opened the concert with Niccolò Paganini’s “Caprice for Solo Violin, No. 20”. Haydon played this challenging work with authority. It’s an odd piece that begins with a drone on the open D string with a dance tune played above at the same time and odd accidentals. To her credit, Haydon pulled it off well with little intonation issues.

Antonín Dvořák’s, “Adagio ma non troppo from Cello Concerto in B minor”, performed by Zachary Connor, cello, and with the experienced ensemble player, Marie Searles on piano. Played smoothly, this melancholy cello music had a good deal of nuance. Though it sounded a little uneven at times when trying to hit the exact pitch. But there was no denying the sensitivity of the performance.

With Maddie Nelson on violin, and Marie Searles on piano, they performed Pablo de Sarasate’s “Zigeunerweisen”. Nelson immediately produced a wonderful dynamic sound in a strong and passionate opening. This romantic and technically challenging work sounded brilliant coming from her violin. With only the occasional missed pitch, Nelson’s volume and presence in the music stood strongly right through to the exciting finish.

 The American composer Aaron Minsky wrote his, “Truckin Through the South”, in 1988, it was performed by Ben Monro on cello. With drive and vigour, this jazzy and ear-catching piece rocked along with Monro doing an excellent job of getting into its heavy rhythms and distinctive style. This was a crowd-pleaser.

Peter Warlock’s, “Basse-Danse from Capriol Suite”, came next. Led by Kirsten Williams, the CSO Concertmaster, the first ensemble could have used a tune up before beginning. This highly effective dance music was well-timed by the ensemble, but hitting the right pitches collectively needed work.

The second ensemble came forward for the “Andante con moto from Serenade for Strings in E flat Major”, by Josef Suk. This time, with a tune up, this piece sounded more together. The major tone and somewhat rapid pace of the work, with Williams conducting in between playing, made for a fairly good string music performance. The last moments were delicious.

For the final piece, Giacomo Puccini’s, “Crisantemi”, SC 65 for string orchestra. This lilting and sad funeral music may have not been the best choice to end a concert, but when it’s Puccini, who cares. Its slow-motion was at times a struggle for both ensembles to maintain an even balance of tone, as slow music is for students sometimes. Yet, there were moments of warmth.

In all the music performed, there was no denying the effort and dedication of these young players, and that is what shone through.