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This review also covers the Triangle Youth Philharmonic concert on November 21, 2010.
Turkey Day is in the offing, heralded by music produced in Meymandi Concert Hall by the Philharmonic Association's three large youth orchestras – the Triangle Youth Philharmonic, which played works by Haydn and Mussorgsky (as orchestrated by Ravel) on Sunday afternoon, and the Triangle Youth Orchestra and the Triangle Youth Symphony, whose joint concert was Tuesday evening. There's one more to go – the Triangle Youth String Orchestras will appear in the auditorium of Cary High School on Tuesday, November 30.
On Sunday, the 99 or so members of the TYP looked and sounded great, filling the stage with instruments and the hall with sound. Hugh Partridge conducted with customary precision and attention to detail. Haydn is hard, and the "Drum Roll" Symphony has many tricky spots. This was big-orchestra Haydn, as opposed to the leaner, meaner approach common when his music turns up nowadays, but it is important that every member of this orchestra take a turn with this music, and the results were mostly satisfying if somewhat old fashioned, stylistically. Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition went even better – this big, splashy piece of walking-around-a-museum music has something for everyone to do, mostly prominently, and so much for listeners to admire. Like the Haydn but in much different ways this is not easy music to play, and indeed it's known far and wide as a great orchestral showpiece, but the young players, full of courage and determination, did it and themselves, too, proudly, and at the end the substantial audience rose to its feet in appreciation.
On Tuesday, Tim Kohring conducted the youngest orchestral kids, members of the Triangle Youth Orchestra. There are over 80 of them, which means that, downstream a few years, the "big" group, the TYP, will have few if any membership worries!
In the interest of disclosure, Tim's mom is the Administrative Manager of CVNC; I've known him since he was at Leesville High, and I've followed his artistic development at UNC, in various area bands, and since he joined the PA. It's profoundly gratifying to this critic to have been able to watch him grow up in music and now to be seeing him pass his skills and abilities – and his love of music – on to younger people. (For a nice profile on him, see this article from the Garner Citizen.)
Kohring cut these young people no slack as he led them in spirited performances of music by Bach, Brahms (an abbreviation of the Haydn Variations), Del Borgo, and Bizet. In retrospect, the finale of the Brahms and Bizet's "Farandole" (from the incidental music for L'Arlésienne) were probably the most successful items, although the "Essay" by Del Borgo – one of hundreds of fairly simple pieces that are available for young musicians to play while mastering ensemble skills – proved to be very attractive in its own right.
Kohring is a brass player, but he enjoys strong string support from Connie Lorber, whose title is "String Specialist." She's also PA Executive Director Margaret Partridge's Administrative Assistant. (And in the interest of disclosure, I had the great pleasure of working with her mom for many years while she was Executive Director of the City of Raleigh Arts Commission….)
Following a brief intermission, the Triangle Youth Symphony, whose ranks include around 90 players, took the stage for music by Handel (a pleasant slice of excerpts from the Royal Fireworks Music), Brahms (an abbreviation of the "Academic Festival Overture"), Vaughan Williams (three engaging parts of the English Folk Song Suite), and a "Galop" by Drigo, all led by Marta C. Findlay-Partridge, who has garnered many honors during her long educational career. She cut her players no slack, either – some of these works were refreshingly brisk, making for some good listening and demonstrating in the process the fact that these players' chops are nothing to sneeze at!
Leadership of the TYS was long a shared enterprise, but Findlay-Partridge's co-conductor retired not long ago, so a guest was brought in for one number – Saint-Saëns' "Danse Bacchanale," from Samson et Dalila, Op. 47. This is hoochie-coochie music that put even some of Offenbach's dance-hall numbers in the shade, so it was interesting to hear it played – handsomely – by a flock of youngsters, led by the long, tall and exceedingly slender Texas-trained cellist and conductor (a native of Oklahoma) who was recently named Music Director of the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra. In his white tie and tails, arms flailing, Jim Waddelow seemed just on the verge of going airborne a number of times, but he wound up not rising too high above the podium. The orchestra seemed to respond enthusiastically, as did the large audience, at the end of the reading. Well done!
For details of the season's remaining PA concert, see our calendar.