Review: NYOS Symphony Orchestra Perth Concert Hall, 04-08-2017


The NYOS (National Youth Orchestras of Scotland) Symphony Orchestra in Perth Concert Hall is always a joyous event. First there is the formidably able talent on show, second is the sheer impact of their sound and most important is the enthusiasm of the players, for most it will be their first eager experience of creating masterpieces.

Thus their American programme: stylish, fascinating and epic. George Gershwin’s An American in Paris showed them, under the precise and emotive conducting of Michael Francis, no slouch at the work’s colour and emotion. They had the big sound, lustrous and gleaming, and combined it with solos of aplomb. They had just the right sassy sense of fun and humour. To invidiously select just the Paris by Night section:   an excellent solo from Leader Iona McDonald led to Duncan Hughes bluesy trumpet, woodwind comments against tone of real feeling from the strings.

Andrew Norman’s percussion concerto Switch, in its première run in Scotland, proved to be the most intriguing piece. It started with an unworthy theatrical trick: with no soloist on the platform Michael Francis began the piece with quiet stirrings disrupted by dissonant crashes, then Colin Currie rushed on as if late, from stage right, to begin his hyperactive solo, containing a motif which recurred and oriented to listener. Switch refers to the activity of the soloist which triggers or silences certain instruments in the orchestra. One example was the side drum inciting rhythmic imitation by the violins. There was interaction between Colin Currie at the front and the NYOS percussion, especially the vibraphone, ranged across the rear of the very full platform. The clapper and a pause signaled a shimmering slow section with intense strings. Shrill woodwind brought in a swirling section of orchestral excitement. A section with muted brass and gongs, dying away in a descending line led to the slow exit of Colin Currie stage left. It was a fascinating, enjoyable piece, brilliantly performed and rapturously enjoyed by the Perth Concert Hall audience. 

Michael Francis propelled a grand performance of Copland’s Third Symphony, from the seemingly vast open spaces of the first movement, through the vigorous Scherzo with its Trio of a homely string tune, the lyrical almost night music and chorale of the third and the version of Fanfare for the Common Man with a jazzy, fugal middle which dominates the Finale.

by Ian Stuart-Hunter, Perthshire Advertiser, 4 August 2017