Australian Youth Orchestra
Melbourne Town Hall
Conductor, Arvo Volmer
Monday 18 February 2013
Evidently the dress code said “all black” so she did: tight black “slacks” very high-heeled black shoes and jet black hair. What a stunner - and in the front row on the first violins. Then there was the viola with red blobs in his black hair and the trumpet with the huge Dudamel-style afro.
Go for it kid!
All of this crashes, of course, if you can’t play. Could they play? You betcha!
Energy, enthusiasm and huge talent – an unbeatable combination. They loved Himself too. You can tell when orchestras love their conductor. He must have taught them and appreciated them. Certainly, at applause time, he parked himself behind the podium beside Leader making himself part of the group, not god-almighty out the front as if it was all his doing. They loved her (Leader) too, by the way.
I love the way young orchestras stamp their feet. The sound of one hand clapping when you are holding a bow or a tuba is pretty feeble but the thunder of shoes on a stage like a stampeding herd of wildebeest, that is something else again on the “we love you” meter.
It wasn’t kiddie music though. The premiere of Nigel Westlake’s harrowing The Glass Soldier Suite required every percussion known to man but more importantly, the ability to produce the horror and pathos of trench warfare. And they did it.
In a piece of inspired programming Westlake was followed by the tremendously difficult Concerto for the Left Hand of Ravel (which included, I’m sure, a drum beat quote from Bolero). At some point it required the brilliant Kristian Chong to play the piano piano in 6/8 (while sitting on his right hand) while the trombone played mezzoforte in 2/4. Two themes were played simultaneously in different time signatures. How do they play that and how do you conduct it? Huge talent, clearly and a cart-load of hard work.
After playtime it was, logically enough more Ravel - Mother Goose. Great fun and then, with wonderful logic, Firebird. Is it French – as in L'oiseau de feu or Russian Жар-птица? Whatever … the orchestra loved it - and it showed - and gave us an electric performance.
But wait. There’s more (to coin a cliché): a wild, ecstatic, Argentine ballet, Estancia by Ginastera. Now was something that the kinder could get their teeth into and let their hair down (to mangle some metaphors).
It was a piece where, having got the notes under control, the musos could let ‘er rip; so they did. A front-row second violin was so into it that the jumped out of his chair to get more emphasis. And when the dust finally settled he sat there grinning like a loon, his bow tie askew, looking like a very very happy drunk. Perfectly reasonable!