Nottingham Youth Orchestra
August 2 2019
St Mary’s Church, Nottingham
Review: William Ruff
Youthful talent and energy in a big, bold, extrovert programme
There was nowhere to hide in the NYO’s summer concert. It’s just as well that the orchestra doesn’t have any shrinking violets in its ranks as their chosen programme was big, bold and brazenly extrovert.
The lively acoustics of St Mary’s gave a sonic boost to Sibelius’s Finlandia and the NYO’s brass players made its opening bars as dark and growly as I’ve ever heard. Youthful energy and hand-on-heart emotion were to the fore in a performance which was not only tense and stirring but which also presented the central hymn tune so movingly that the audience would happily have started waving Finnish flags, had any been available.
Then Thomas Gordon, the NYO’s principal clarinet, took centre stage as soloist in Weber’s 2nd Clarinet Concerto, the musical equivalent of one of those heart-stopping, potentially neck-breaking circus trapeze acts. Thomas (still only 16) had more than enough power and technique to thrill the audience with Weber’s super-virtuoso demands. But there was more too. The concerto isn’t all flashy display: there are good tunes, a variety of instrumental colours and some dramatically striking contrasts – as well as plenty of reminders that Weber was no stranger to the opera house. Thomas was more than a match both for the concerto’s technical challenges and for the subtleties which lie under its glittering surface.
More drama in the second half. Some spirited early Wagner in the form of his Rienzi Overture – and then film music from Shostakovich. The Romance from his Gadfly Suite with its violin solo (beautifully played by NYO Leader Elizabeth Bratton) has become very popular but it was good to hear just how colourful and atmospheric the other movements are, such as the lively Folk Feast and the Barrel Organ Waltz. The NYO demonstrated precision of ensemble as well as plenty of solo talent.
The conductor was Alex Robinson who manages not only to extract musical excellence from his young players but also gives the impression that doing so has been a lot of fun too.
Nottingham Youth Orchestra conducted by Alex Robinson, with Thomas Gordon (clarinet)