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Juniors and seniors shine on their own

The National Youth Orchestra of Scotland's annual spring concert at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall last Friday was devoted to NYOS's junior and senior ensembles. In the now familiar formula, the National Children's Orchestra of Scotland tackled four demanding works in the first part of the concert, followed by a single piece from Camerata Scotland, the elite senior chamber orchestra.

The children's orchestra was led again this year by Josephine Robertson, now a 13-year-old veteran with six years' experience, and conducted by Julian Clayton, one of the rare breed of conductors who is psychologically and temperamentally attuned to working with the group's eight to 14 years age range.

Given that none of the orchestra members was over 15, and some were not even big enough to have moved to playing full-size instruments, the results were nothing short of remarkable, although no longer surprising. As we have learned to expect, the combined efforts of Clayton, the NYOS tutors and the many individual teachers involved with the children again succeeded in blending them into a proficient symphony orchestra capable not simply of playing the notes written before them, but of making music.

The richness and homogeneity of the string sections was particularly impressive, and this year's crop of wind and brass players - often the weak point of an orchestra, at any level - proved to be good.

The children began with a slightly underpowered but well characterised account of Walton's "Crown Imperial: Coronation March". Violinist Anthony Moffat was the soloist in Beethoven's brief but challenging "Romance No 2", in which the orchestra provided a beautifully judged support for his flowing, silvery melody line.

The balance between the sections was good throughout, particularly in the closing piece, Tchaikovsky's "Marche Slave", in which all of the component elements remained clearly delineated in even the most massive sections.

It followed a bold account of a contemporary piece written for youth ensemble, Nicholas Maw's "Summer Dances".

Garry Walker, a former member of NYOS, conducted Camerata Scotland in a taut, shapely and highly concentrated performance of Mozart's Symphony No 40. If the juniors inevitably experienced the odd wobble, their senior counterparts were crisp and assured from the first downbeat.

How many of the youngsters will eventually achieve that level remains to be seen, but the NYOS hierarchy of orchestras provides every opportunity.

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