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AdYO: Northern Lights


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It has long been one of my pleasures to bring my 11-year old budding musician to the Adelaide Youth Orchestra concerts, letting him experience the beginnings of careers that might one day mesh with his own.

We both savour every minute of these performances, thanks to the professionalism of the AdYO, the talented 13 to 24-year-old musicians and the often slightly unusual choices of music. Last night, my eight-year-old was allowed to come along for the first time.

As it turned out, it might not have been the best choice for an initial visit to listen to a performance of classical music, as none of the pieces had an immediate, infectious quality. Although they were all competently played and there were dramatic moments, my test audience faded fairly quickly.

The Maestro Series 3 concert, Northern Lights, began with the world premiere of local composer John Polglase’s Lux Nova. Polglase teaches at the Elder Conservatorium of Music, and his music is grand and full-bodied. It builds the drama to a powerful climax, but the piece seemed easily forgotten when we moved on to the next work: Piano Concerto No 2 in C minor Op 18, by Sergei Rachmaninov.

Due to illness, pianist Mekhla Kumar had to withdraw from the concert, but Konstantin Shamray did a great job as her last-minute replacement in the Rachmaninov Concerto. It began with deep, tolling piano chords – “dark, brooding and quintessentially Russian”, according to the program. Moments of the piano reaching for the rest of the orchestra to repeat its melody were effective.

Finishing off this instalment in the Maestro series was Jean Sibelius’ Symphony No 2 in D major Op 43. An unusual piece in many ways, this symphony keeps stopping and starting, lapsing into silence before it begins anew with a yearning oboe. This was perhaps my favourite part of the evening, but I’m not so sure the music reached my young test audience.

Any performance from the Adelaide Youth Orchestra is a treat and a thrill, and I would recommend their concerts to anyone, but unfortunately Northern Lights wasn’t the most exciting program – for me or the eight-year-old.





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