NYOS Symphony Orchestra

City Halls, Glasgow

Keith Bruce, five stars

CO-COMMISSIONED by the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, and premiered by the cream of its current generation of players under American conductor Rebecca Miller with soloist James Willshire, Jay Capperauld’s Endlings is a hugely ambitious piano concerto and a major work.

Using recordings of the natural world, it is an eloquent appeal for endangered species that requires virtuoso technique of members of the orchestra as much as from the soloist, with pizzicato slides from the strings, precision bowed and struck percussion and eloquent exchanges between leader Amy Birse and the pianist. When his lightning-fingered playing was then overwhelmed by the scoring (initially prompting scribbled notes of concern by this reviewer), the entire orchestra abruptly stopped and processed offstage humming a short melodic figure, leaving Willshire to his own, equally dramatic, solo music before giving way to the last recorded song of an Hawaiian bird, doomed to extinction for want of a mate to hear it. Every details of the dynamics were revealed as part of the composer’s passionate narrative in a work that made remarkable use of all the resources at his disposal and to which the young players responded magnificently.

If Judith Weir’s Forest was an ideal opening companion piece, only a little older than many of the musicians and also evocative of dense foliage filled with flora and fauna, how to follow such a work?

Only a testing 20th century riot-inciting masterpiece would do, and the members of the NYOS Symphony rose to the challenge of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring with skills beyond their years. From those opening bars on bassoon, the wind and brass players took their turns in the spotlight with the composure of professionals, while the ensemble work in the string sections was exemplary. There is no question that they were in the best of hands with their conductor, as Miller directed a performance of quite remarkable rhythmic and dynamic precision, and palpable excitement.