National Youth Orchestra of Scotland

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I have to admit that I feel a little intimidated by the thought of writing about classical or orchestral music but if you ask me to do something far enough in advance I will generally agree to do it, no matter how scary.  Anyway, these days I'm all about feeling the fear and doing it anyway.  Some people go white water rafting, parachute jumping or get tattoo's whereas I agree to write reviews of genres of music that I know little about.  Rock n' roll... er actually not rock n' roll, classical!

However, I don't want to give the impression that I don't enjoy orchestral music.  I've attended performances of Beetho ven's Ninth, Haydn's Messiah and even Delibes Sylvia all of which I enjoyed immensely.  It's just that I don't seem to have the ability to talk and write about them in the same way as other forms of music.  However, I am a strong believer that people should not be afraid to try new things just because they are unfamiliar so with my mother in tow (told you I was rock n' roll), who being more cultured I thought might provide some assistance, I set off for Perth Concert Hall.

The Geek in me who enjoys making computer music found it pretty exciting.The first piece George Gershwin's An American In Paris broke me in gently as it is actually one of the few pieces of classical music I own.  Gershwin was one of the biggest influences on the music of Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys and Rhapsody in Blue featured heavily in the Woody Allen film Manhattan.  Possibly because of his background writing popular music for Tin-Pan Alley he has often been regarded as a safe sell for newcomers to classical music.  He also seemed to straddle genres, unafraid to throw elements of jazz and blues into the musical melting pot. This is particularly evident in the second movement with it's trumpet blues refrain preceded by Iona McDonald on lead violin's lyrical violin solo.  To this relatively unschooled classical music fan the orchestra seemed excellent and the percussion impressed particularly during the jazzier sections and the rousing timpani towards the finale.

As a lover of a wee bit of a groove I was in for a real treat with the second piece of music on the bill 2014's Switch.  The composer Andrew Norman based this piece of music around the idea of instrument's triggering other instruments.  All the percussion instruments, played by dynamic guest soloist Colin Currie, act as very specific switches turning on different sections of the orchestra off and on.  In a sense the percussionist is playing the orchestra bringing them in or out of the arrangement with the stroke of his sticks or mallets.  I found this particularly effective when he triggers similar percussion instruments to mirror the same phrase, creating a delay effect that almost sounds dubby.  This sort of innovation was not the sort of thing I was expecting to hear and the geek in me that likes to play around making electronic music found it pretty exciting.  Norman has made no secret of his love of video games and T.V. and it seems he is throwing them into the mix in a similar way as Gershwin used jazz, blues and pop music.

After the interval Aaron Copland's Symphony No.3 strikes up and after a couple of minutes grabs my mother grabs my pad.  She draws what looks like a shell and writes underneath "What's that? it sounds amazing."  After a bit of notepad to and forth it turns out that it is a French horn.  I'm beginning to think that she is not quite the expert in classical music that I thought.  With this symphony Copland was quoted as saying that he "certainly was reaching for the grand gesture".  Like a sculputer chipping away at a slab of marble he started work on it in 1944 and didn't finish for two years.  The finished result is certainly epic with a brooding version of the theme often being heard played beautifully by Daniel Eddison on the trombone.   After a rousing finale I contemplate trying to start a chant of "one more tune" but think better of it.  I leave the auditorium a more cultured man than I entered.  There's just time for a sneaky glass of beaujolais then it was crudites and home.

Look out for other events at Perth Concert Hall in our 'What's On' section>> 




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