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“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, / But to be young was very Heaven.” Wordsworth wrote those lines over two hundred years ago in The Prelude. They still could be applied to those Philharmonic Association players in a pair of concerts on an overcast evening in Meymandi Hall.
The Triangle Youth Orchestra (the “junior” of the youth orchestras with players as young as ten) began their concert with the nationalistic “Finlandia” of Sibelius. Conductor Tim Kohring then guided them from Finland to England and a reading of Holst’s “Song Without Words.” This Roy Phillippe arrangement from one of the composer’s band suites elicited the lyrical melodies reminiscent of Delius.
Now it was back across to France and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” by Dukas. This rousing piece featured good work by the bassoons. The players’ finest efforts probably occurred in Bizet’s Symphony in C. In the Scherzo movement, they projected a big mature sound, seemingly well rehearsed, that made one wish to hear how they would have negotiated the other three movements. Once the excellent string players synchronized with the conductor, Tchiakovsky’s themes from “Capriccio Italien” came into pleasing focus. Perhaps many hearers (of a certain age) had tuned their early “hi-fis” to such varied and booming strains.
The second concert of the evening featured members of the Triangle Youth Symphony, the intermediate ensemble of the Association. The fine sound of this group can be partially explained by their dedication. Eleven of the members were recognized for their perfect attendance, having been present at each and every performance and rehearsal.
Conductor Marta Findlay-Partridge led in three of the selections, including the opening Overture to The Abduction from the Seraglio by Mozart. Theirs was the robust sound of authority, coming as it did from numbers (near a hundred) larger than one usually associates with that composer’s works. She followed mid-concert with Copland’s “Variations on a Shaker Hymn,” and closed the program with the Finale from Dvorák’s Symphony No. 8, Op. 88. She elicited commendable energy from the players with a particularly bold reading of the score. The introduction of this march-like movement where the trumpets brought on the low strings was especially satisfying, transporting the hearer right back into old Bohemia.
John Ilika, principal trombonist of the North Carolina Symphony and the first of two guest conductors, led in the Overture to The Wasps by Vaughan Williams, demonstrating that composer at his most tuneful. He also presented Copland’s creative orchestration celebrating that traditional steel-drivin’ man, “John Henry.”
During a break in the action, longtime TYS conductor Tony Robinson was powerfully honored. Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker announced the creation and endowment of the “Tony K. Robinson Chair” for trombones, in recognition of his long and faithful service to the Association. The honoree had earlier led the orchestra in the “Hoedown” movement from Copland’s ballet, Rodeo. He and the players extracted maximum mileage from these cowboy melodies in this energetic last of four dance episodes. The excitement and cheerfulness in these Copland pieces showed why they have retained their popularity throughout the years.
Many thanks to The Philharmonic Association for championing great music among the young, and for the consequent brightening of the future of such artistry.
Note: The Triangle Youth Philharmonic, the third member of the Philharmonic Association, presented their spring concert on May 9 in this same concert hall. John W. Lambert reviewed that presentation in these pages.