Review: CYO’s triumphant finish to triumphant year

The difficulty which has faced the Canberra Youth Orchestra this year with their “Icons” series of concerts is that a good portion of the audience is familiar with the music. Playing some of the biggest, most imposing and well-known symphonies has meant there are plenty of expectations to live up to.

Last night, in their final concert for the year, the Canberra Youth Orchestra did just that, rounding off a year of magnificent, sprightly, emotive performances.

But before that final symphony for the year, two young soloists produced some remarkable music.

Throughout Chaminade’s Flute Concertino in D major, Op. 107,  there were occasional moments where soloist Lily Bryant looked startled at the power of the music around her, as if the majesty of the orchestra, hanging from the deft notes of her flute, was still an astonishing feature of what was taking place.

This made it all the more astonishing to hear – as the sound revealed the delight and spontaneity of the music itself.

A 2015 brass ensemble arrangement of Sibelius’ Finlandia, Op. 26, followed. It’s hard to hide in sound, even when there’s a lot of it. A big sound does not provide a big mask. But the CYO’s brass section didn’t need such a mask, putting themselves on show after a year of grand improvement. They played richly and confidently.

Then it was time for Mendolssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64, with Donica Tran as  soloist. Tran played in a conscious act of music making, aware of the profundity of what was taking place. It was music crafted with precision – utterly and knowingly beautiful.

And finally, the Icon: Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68.

At all times powerful, the Orchestra announced its presence with strong percussion, accomplished strings and a wind section which revealed the improvements over the course of the year.

Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 can feel like it has been cobbled together from different ideas and notions. Despite this, the Orchestra played with a newfound cohesion, producing a spectacular, well-assembled result.

The third movement was superb, a strong contender for the Orchestra’s best work over the course of the year.

There was plenty to recognise for an audience already familiar with the symphony in this rendition. Expectations were certainly lived up to, as the Orchestra easily overcame the difficulty it faced with familiar repertoire.

All of this bodes very well for the Canberra Youth Orchestra’s 50th year in 2017, which this reviewer can await only eagerly.

Canberra Youth Orchestra: conducted Leonard Weiss. Soloists: Lily Byrant and Donica Tran. Llewellyn Hall, 4 December 2016.