NYOS Junior Orchestra

Perth Concert Hall

Keith Bruce

four stars

IN the progression of young talent through the classical ensembles of the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, the Junior Orchestra is open to musicians from the age of eight, and this Summer Concert marked the first time that age group had been asked to play a symphony in its entirety. Dvorak’s Eighth may not be the composer’s longest, but it is still a major undertaking, with a lot of music for every section of the orchestra. Under the baton (nick-named “Nick the Stick”) of Natalia Luis-Bassa, the young ensemble was plainly unfazed by the task.

Luis-Bassa is a product of Venezuela’s Sistema and London’s Royal College of Music, where she is now a Professor of Conducting, and she appeared to have found a swift rapport with the young musicians in rehearsing a programme that built towards that first symphonic journey. Perhaps one player was a little early out of the blocks for the opening arrangement of Brahms’s Hungarian Dance No.5, but the conductor steered the orchestra deftly through the rest of the score’s stop/starts. Walton’s Crown Imperial Coronation March, a feature of Royal Nuptials in 1937, 1953 and 2011, revealed the remarkable quality of the horn section, and some fine brass playing.

Former NYOS Principal Mark James was the accomplished soloist on the 1950 Trumpet Concerto by Alexander Arutiunian, which did expose the under-staffing of the viola section (there were just four of them, alongside 10 cellos and six basses), but included some fine Hollywood-swell violins, a lovely central section in which the muted soloist is accompanied by muted ensemble strings, and a dramatic ending dispatched with collective aplomb.

Although the concert had been wittily presented by young horn-player Ben Dickinson and trombonist James McCorkindale, the conductor took time to introduce us to her baton before the Dvorak. There was a lovely flow through Adagio Second Movement, and if the orchestra was a little ragged at the start of the Third, she and “Nick” swiftly sorted that, producing effective concentration on the shifts of tempi in the finale.