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Max Rashbrooke Review: The Young Person's Future of Music

Review: The Young Person's Future of Music

The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, NZSO National Youth Orchestra

Friday, July 14

Reviewer: Max Rashbrooke

The future of classical music is in safe hands, judging by Friday's night concert from the NZSO National Youth Orchestra, the country's most talented young players. They had the advantage in this concert, of course, of working with the highly talented British composer and conductor James MacMillan. Under his guidance they produced a sound that, apart from an occasional hesitancy or lack of depth in the strings, could have been that of a professional outfit.

They were also the perfect conduit for a couple of premieres by young New Zealand composers. Celeste Oram's The Young People's Guide to the Orchestra was a wry and inventive tribute to growing up listening to the radio, complete with faked RNZ Concert audio, transistor radios on stage, and the orchestra at one point filing off stage to play amongst the audience. There were a few too many in-jokes about famous classical works, and it dragged a little at the end, but it was easily the most innovative thing I've heard coming out of the NZSO set-up.

The same was true for Reuben Jellyman's ‘Vespro’, a gentle, elegant meditation on the Monteverdi Vespers. Reading the descriptions for both the premieres, I had been worried they would be too backward looking, a search for something comforting in a troubled world. But Jelleyman's piece in particular had a beautiful balance between drawing on tradition and taking it forward.

Earlier on in the concert we had MacMillan's ‘Veni, Veni, Emmanuel’, played by rockstar percussionist Colin Currie. I have to admit that – though it's no doubt a failing for a classical reviewer – I'm not so moved by heavily percussive works, so I probably couldn't appreciate the skill on display. But I think anyone would have been moved in places by the great emotional variety in this religious work, ranging from exaltation to quiet reverence, while Currie's studied intensity was something to behold.

Finally, we had Britten's ‘Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra’, and again, the playing was generally excellent, especially the bubbling clarinets and some really moving playing from the oboes, rightly singled out for applause at the end. It was a fitting conclusion to a varied and enjoyable evening.


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