‘Fine orchestral blend’ in successful concert

Dunedin Youth Orchestra
Castle Lecture Theatre 1
University of Otago
Saturday, May 25


I had not heard the Dunedin Youth Orchestra for quite some time and it was very enjoyable to be part of the large audience in University of Otago Castle Lecture Theatre 1 for their end-of-the-semester concert on Saturday night.

The conductor was Natasha Manowitz, and she took the orchestra of approximately 50 students aged between 13 and 25 successfully through a programme of musical panoramic landscapes from 19th-century composers.

They began with The Land of the Mountain and the Flood by Scottish composer Hamish MacCunn. It was a very busy score, and there were some "loose ends" and occasional dubious brass intonation, but these came right as they all settled in, and a much tighter blend was achieved for the Faust Overture by German female composer Emilie Mayer (1812-83) which followed. Manowitz has a strong style of conducting with very consistent hand, arm and facials.

Clarinet Concerto No. 1, by Carl Maria von Weber, featured clarinet soloist Ayla Biner-McGrath. Fine orchestral blend was achieved and the soloist excelled, with beautiful tone and shaping throughout, and some impressive scalic passages. The adagio ma non troppo movement achieved particular sincerity and emotion, and a fine orchestral balance was maintained.

Music of the Romantic era offers great scope for musical expression and dynamics, and Grieg’s Symphonic Dances Op. 64 was a long and ambitious work for all sections of this youth orchestra.

Great concentration is required by all, as the various themes, rhythmic motifs and syncopated surprises are fitted in and passed around, rather like a massive musical jigsaw with everyone working to complete the harmonic picture.

A good pace was maintained and the dance-themed passages frolicked happily.

Aragonaise and Danse Boheme from Carmen Suites by Bizet, which included impressive oboe prominence carrying the well-known lyrics, ended a very successful recital.

Review by Elizabeth Bouman