National Youth Orchestra of Scotland

Perth Concert Hall

Michael Tumelty

Four stars

THE annual Spring concert by the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, given in Perth on Friday night, and repeated, I imagine to spectacular sonic effect, in Glasgow’s City Hall on Saturday, rather threw me back on myself. This was Scotland’s flagship youth orchestra in glorious full sail: 105 of the best young musicians in the country in a remarkable display of virtuosity, musicality and the sheer professionalism of near-flawless collaboration under the sure-footed guidance of the staggeringly-competent young conductor Alpesh Chauhan.

It was an inspiring display, but where was the audience? And that’s what threw me back as I recalled asking the same question, year in year out, until it became a mantra and I abandoned it, realising that there appeared to be no answer to the question: what’s to be done? If people don’t come out to hear the best of the best, with its promise of a rich musical future for the country, then they don’t come out.

The turnout in Perth was, in the words of the NYOS chief executive, “shocking”. Fortunately it did not blemish the musical glories that streamed from Chauhan and this beautiful orchestra which provided, with some mind-blowing playing, one of the most glorious Daybreak openings to Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe that I have heard, though the final Bacchanale was dangerously fast and, at the other end of the night, a performance of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet whose mix of battering physicality and heart-wrenching tenderness generated a sense of wonder. In the middle, SCO principal Alec Frank-Gemmill gently underlined the languid loveliness of Koechlin’s Poeme for horn and orchestra: music born for the horn.