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Review of Orchestras Central: Youth Orchestra Waikato

Reviewed by Andrew Buchanan-Smart 

Cambridge Autumn Festival: Fire and Romance

Works by Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Gardel, Mascagni, Gareth Farr, Stravinsky

Conductor Simon Brew

Associate Conductor Catherine Polglase

Soloists Kezi Schuitmaker - Violin and Matthew Colvin - Clarinet 

It was great to see a youth orchestra performing to a full house. The concert was aptly named ‘Fire and Romance’, with the orchestra capturing both these elements in their performance. It is always a challenge for conductors in choosing repertoire for youth orchestras, accommodating works that are both within their capabilities and that really stretch their abilities to raise their performance level. The choice of repertoire achieved both.

The Romance began with Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Waltz. It was the ideal opener with the full orchestra giving an exuberant performance, with lovely string tone with the brass, wind and percussion punctuating with forté accents when needed.

Soloist Kezi Schuitmaker gave a lovely rendition of Beethoven’s Romance in F for Violin and Orchestra. The strings and woodwind supported her throughout. Gardel’s very colourful Por una cabeza strongly featured the brass section but all sections gave a strong rhythmic and vibrant performance.

The string section and the ‘singing’ oboe with a beautiful tone captured the essence of Mascagni’s soulful Intermezzo from Cavaliera Rusticana.

Matthew Colvin performed Gareth Farr’s Waipoua for clarinet and strings with a sumptuous warm sound capturing the sounds of the forest. On occasion the dynamic imbalance between the string section and soloist was noticeable, with the strings being dominant.

Stravinsky’s Infernal Dance and Berceuse and Finale from The Rite of Spring produced the Fire element with great effect with the rhythmically exciting double forte punctuations that captured the essence of this great 20th century work.  The rich colourful orchestration was finely balanced, as were the cameo solos throughout. The concert ended as it started — with elegance, style and panache.