Concert reviews

What the critics think

WYO’s final concert for 2018 attracted an outstanding review from Lindis Taylor on Middle C.  He wrote:

‘The Egmont Overture is a fine piece for a youth orchestra: I can attest from personal experience, having played it in the predecessor of the Wellington Youth Orchestra, back in the 1950s. I have never grown tired of the dramatic character of the work that blooms into a triumphant Coda at the end. And I hope current orchestra members still derive the same emotional delight from it.

‘Here, conductor Mark Carter transmitted a strong sense of its heroism as well as its deeper humanity. Balance between strings and woodwinds was excellent, and the violin sections in particular sounded like thoroughly rehearsed professionals.

‘I don’t think I’ve heard Copland’s Appalachian Spring played by amateurs before and was delighted to realise how well is suits young players. There’s a lot that’s not too difficult technically, but a lot, on the other hand, that demands finesse and can reveal weaknesses in intonation and control of articulation and dynamics. The leisurely opening music is dominated by strings, flutes and soon clarinets, admirably finding the right open-air, springtime feeling…

‘The quiet opening exposed the players, rather to their benefit, and they showed reassuring pleasure in their charmingly animated playing. Later came a fine, attenuated trumpet on top of more general brass, and further opportunities to admire fairly important bassoons as well as the solo opportunities for trombones (the latter were all Youth Orchestra players – though several other sections, including the strings, were strengthened by a few guest players).

‘Then came the Mozart Andante, written as an alternative slow movement for one of his flute concertos. It proved semi-familiar to me and was well worth hearing. It evolved, slowish and attractive, the solo part beautifully played by flutist Samantha McSweeney who is in her second year at Victoria University school of music.

‘The concert ended with the Nutcracker Suite; at least, most of the dances from the Suite. Here, there were charming episodes from flutes and other winds, including rather impressive horns (admittedly including a couple of guest players) excellent harp contributions and throughout, seamless, well integrated strings.

‘…Certainly, the polish and confidence, what seemed a real balletic flair, audible in Nutcracker, and elsewhere, was singularly impressive and evidence of both the overall level of musicianship and the result of first class direction by conductor Mark Carter.’

Admirable concert of well-chosen music from Wellington Youth Orchestra under Mark Carter

Cantata Memoria

On 23 October 2917, WYO played in a memorable concert called Cantata Memoria: for the Children of Aberfan, in the Michael Fowler Centre. The centrepiece of the concert was Cantata Memoria by the Welsh composer Karl Jenkins, scored for two choirs (adults and children) and a large orchestra, plus soprano and baritone soloists, all under the baton of US conductor Jonathan Griffith.  The first half was given over to Schubert Symphony No 8 (‘The Unfinished‘), under Simon Brew, who also prepared the orchestra for the Karl Jenkins works.

Reviewer Lindis Taylor wrote in Middle C: ‘The symphony was conducted by the orchestra’s permanent conductor Simon Brew who had also rehearsed the Aberfan oratorio and the piece from The Armed Man.  It was a fine performance of the Schubert, one that could well have come from a totally professional orchestra, such was the remarkable elegance and pathos of the conception. And there was strikingly beautiful playing by violins, then cellos, horns, choruses of majestic trombones and each woodwind section in turn. The contrast in spirit between the sombre opening and the more sanguine Andante con moto second movement, marked a performance of real sophistication.’

‘…The concert attracted a good-sized audience, probably among the biggest I can recall for a WYO concert, and a standing ovation greeted the highly impressive performances by adult and children’s choirs, the Wellington Youth Orchestra, special involvement by singers Jenny Wollerman and James Clayton and by instrumentalists Ingrid Bauer, Monique Lapins, Buzz Newton and Lavinnia Rae; plus the thorough preparation and leadership by Simon Brew and Jonathan Griffith.’

Dominion Post reviewer John Button was also impressed by WYO’s playing, especially in the Schubert: ‘…they remain a most accomplished band, here very well conducted by Simon Brew.’

Read what they said about WYO’s concert on 11 October 2016, under the baton of Simon Brew:

From the first solo ‘cello note of the Wellington Youth Orchestra’s performance of the “William Tell” Overture, I was spellbound – I’d never heard that opening ascending phrase speak more eloquently and poetically. …The orchestra under conductor Simon Brew then went on to give a splendid rendition of what followed – focused, stinging raindrops at the beginning of the storm, which featured fiery brass and tumultuous timpani (sounding at the climax more like the Wagner of “Die Wälkure” than Rossini!), beautiful cor anglais and flute solos throughout the pastoral sequence, and scalp-prickling calls from the brass at the beginning of the final march.

…For a capable soloist the Bruch concerto is a gift, affording ample opportunities for both virtuoso display and poetic expression; and Shweta Iyer brought plenty of youthful exuberance and darkly passionate feeling to the first movement’s more vigorous passages, while by contrast finding plenty of lyrical sweetness in the central adagio’s singing melodies. One or two early intonation divergencies apart, Iyer’s playing felt and sounded secure and totally involved, every note invested with warmth and feeling.

…Playing as if their lives depended on the outcome, orchestra and soloist dug into into the finale’s opening measures, the energetic principal theme ringing out resplendently from both Shweta Iyer’s violin and the orchestral strings. Then came the second, more fully-throated theme – was there ever another concerto so endowed with romantic melody as this one? – first the orchestra, then the soloist gave this tune all the “juice” one could want, contrasting with the trenchant figurations of the “working-out” which followed, and the winding-up of energies for the coda’s exciting accelerando, brought off with great flair by all concerned. Very great credit to Shweta Iyer, for some brilliant, adventurous and heartfelt playing of one of the ‘great” concertos.

– Peter Mechen, Middle C.

The whole review is here:

Read what they said about WYO’s first concert for 2016, under the baton of Andrew Joyce:

A joy, right from the beginning, this concert, which featured bright-eyed and bushy-tailed orchestral playing from a talented ensemble of young musicians, squaring up to a couple of well-known classics and an engaging cello-and-orchestra concert rarity.

Under Andrew Joyce’s on-the-spot direction, the music in every instance took off, the Beethoven with bright-eyed and chirpy accents, the Tchaikovsky piece with bold, impassioned wing-beats, and the Elgar with gentle, early-morning ruminations developing into gestures with warmth and strength. In the case of each piece the music’s character was quickly established and consistently maintained, the players responding to their conductor’s clearly articulated beat and guidance regarding dynamics, accents and timing.

I thought the Beethoven Symphony was an inspired choice for these players, a work by a young composer eager to make his mark upon the world, and ready to challenge conventions and established rules right at the outset. Here we got strong, almost confrontational chording from the winds at the beginning – a kind of “are you listening?” statement, designed to break into idle concert chit-chat and grab people’s attention. I liked the big-bonedness of that opening, making the following allegro all the more disarming with its light touch and cheeky aspect, and contrasting with the insouciance of the winds’ delivery of the “second subject” (what dry old terms these are!). …Overall, I thought it a most satisfying performance.

Tchaikovsky’s soulful, long-breathed world of heartfelt expression seemed a long way from Beethoven’s, at the outset of the second work on the programme, the Pezzo Capriccioso for ‘cello and orchestra. The passionately-sounded ‘cello line was addressed with great feeling and beautifully-modulated tones from soloist Matthias Balzat, whose performance overall was, to put it mildly, both brilliant and commanding. Throughout the piece’s lively middle section, the soloist’s bow danced upon the strings and the left hand literally flew over the instrument’s fingerboard, striking the notes rapidly and truly, and making a spectacular impression.

– Peter Mechen, Middle C

The whole review is here:


Read what they said about WYO’s concert on 12 August 2012 in the Wellington Town Hall with Wellington Youth Choir:

‘THIS was the best I have heard from the Wellington Youth Orchestra in over ten years. Director Hamish McKeich has managed to get from the strings a real sweep, depth and intensity not apparent under previous directors. So Russian flavour and bite was there in abundance in Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3. His reading was cogent and coherent, with good winds, brass, percussion and lovely harp from Ingrid Bauer.

‘…The collaboration with the Wellington Youth Choir (directors Katie Macfarlane and Isaac Stone) was a fruitful one with Mozart’s Requiem an ideal choice. Here they used an alternative completion by Richard Maunder from 1986, rather than the usual Süssmayr.

‘This was my third Requiem this year, but this one stood out for the freshness and vitality of the choir, well balanced by McKeich to match the orchestra. The choir … were vibrant and exciting. … The orchestra had the Mozart classical style in place with some elegant phrasing. It was an excellent concert…’ Garth Wilshere, Capital Times

WYO Concert 3

Sunday 21 October 2012, Wellington Town Hall:

‘LOUIS van der Mespel … performed …Thomas Goss’s Double Bass Concerto. It is an attractive melodically interesting work that showcases the range and virtues of the instrument, allowing the sonorities and harmonics to shine through.

‘The Brahms Symphony No. 4, was an astonishingly good performance, ideally managed by McKeich, and certainly one of the best I have ever heard by a youth orchestra, mature, knowing playing, from the rich sweeping strings through to piquant winds and gleaming brass.’  Garth Wilshere, Capital Times

Read the full review here:

Capital Times Review WYO Oct Concert

Here is the review in Middle C:

Middle C » Music-making with virtuosity, beauty and energy at Wellington Youth Orchestra’s last 2012 outing


WYS concert reviews

XXth Anniversary Concert, 11 November 2012

‘THIS  junior version of the Wellington Youth Orchestra provides an important stage for aspiring orchestral musicians, and their performances, heard in the right spirit, were here admirable.’  Lindis Taylor, Middle C

Read the full review here:

‘BLYTHE  Press has a warm, engaging, sweet tone exhibiting exquisite musicality, and his Beethoven Violin Concerto was affecting, and sensitively and beautifully done. … a lovely, optimistic performance.

‘Hunt’s intriguing commission “Cirrus” had an appropriate wispy, swirly sound to suit the title. With a quirky retro feel, and lovely jazzy episodes and slurs on trumpet, an unusual piano line and an exotic oriental quality, almost film-score like, all playing out over an insistent minimalist ground. This was an accomplished composition.

‘ Assistant conductor, Vincent Hardaker conducted excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”. This was a creditable, vibrant performance.’ Garth Wilshere, Capital Times

Read the full review here:

Capital Times Review WYS Concert Nov 2012