NYOS Symphony Orchestra
Albert Halls, Stirling
Keith Bruce
four stars
AS well as guest players from the National Youth Orchestra of Spain boosting the numbers in the viola section, there are a few of the offspring of Scotland’s music profession in the current incarnation of the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland’s premier ensemble. I am sure their parents would look askance at a tour schedule that took the orchestra from Kirkwall in Orkney to Stirling via Dundee’s Caird Hall in three days.
The youngsters looked - and, more importantly, sounded - none the worse for the experience, however, as they performed a challenging programme of works from the same era in the middle of the last century, all of them notable for giving the entire orchestra a complete work-out.
That is most obviously the case with the work in the second half, Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra. During the interval we had been introduced to a highly accomplished wind quintet formed from the orchestra’s front desks (quite the equal of similar conservatoire graduate ensembles to my ears) and those players had further chances to shine in the Bartok, often partnered by those sitting alongside them.
Although both that piece and the Shostakovich Violin Concerto No 1 in the first half are unmistakably the work of their composers, the concerto is also as fine a showcase for the orchestra as it is for the soloist, Berlin Philharmonic First Concertmaster Daishin Kashimoto, whose  rendering of the cadenza that precedes the finale was a model of precision and passion.
It was in the Scherzo second movement that the relationship conductor Jessica Cottis had built with the young musicians became most apparent. Her swaggering body language not only communicated the tricky shifts of tempo, but was also explicit instruction about the vitality she wanted from the playing.
The first and third movements both begin on a downbeat tone on the low strings, where ensemble intonation took a couple of bars to settle, so it was good that the concert had opened with the majestic, even triumphant, rarity of Polish composer Grazyna Bacewicz’s Overture. The folk-inspired first bars were uncannily like a Scottish Fiddle Orchestra, which must have gone down a particular treat in Kirkwall.