National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, July 29 The National Youth Orchestra of Scotland completed its summer tour with an impressive performance at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. The five-concert tour had taken them to renowned venues like the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and the Royal Albert Hall in London, and if they played as well on those occasions as they did here, they will have left a very good impression in their wake.
NYOS programmes are characteristically chosen to feature large orchestral forces and works which make heavy demands on both the technique and the musicality of the musicians. This was no exception, but they coped admirably in all three works.
The orchestra's current leader, Gillian Leitch, is from Ayr, but a survey of the long list of those who participated in the summer course from which the orchestra was drawn reveals a wide catchment area, and if the Central Belt is inevitably dominant, most areas of Scotland are represented.
The guest conductor for the tour, Junichi Hirokami, was an animated and encouraging presence on the podium, and drew responsive playing from his charges from the outset. They opened with a work commissioned by NYOS and the Scottish Arts Council from the Scottish composer Rory Boyle, also from Ayr. Capriccio drew on both a folk tune and a much transformed interpretation of the style of the formal piobaireachd in the course of an attractive, highly energised piece, played with commensurate verve and surging rhythmic momentum.
One of the many benefits of playing in the NYOS is the opportunity to hear and interact with a distinguished soloist at close quarters, and Peter Donohoe certainly comes into that category. The orchestra responded to his authority and flair in Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No 3 with confident playing of their own, and carried that assured mood over the interval and into an even more impressive account of Berlioz's challenging Symphonie Fantastique. Each section of the orchestra revealed considerable resourcefulness in meeting the manifold challenges of this colourful and dramatic score, and if they did not quite extract full value, they came very close under Hirokami's buoyant direction.
Berlioz will also figure in the orchestra's New Year Concerts in Glasgow (January 5) and Edinburgh (January 6), this time with his Carnaval Romain. The principal works scheduled for those concerts, Sibelius's Violin Concerto and Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra, will provide another test of the orchestra's mettle.
* For further information on NYOS or their concert seasons, tel: 0141 332 8311