The Scotsman

National Youth Orchestra of Canada

Usher Hall

- CAROL MAIN

Having won the title of Best Youth Orchestra in the World in 1996, the National Youth Orchestra of Canada has clearly set the bar high since then to retain its position within the top internatio­nal echelons of young people’s music-making. In Tuesday’s Usher Hall programme, which showed off their capabiliti­es, ranging from full-blooded gutsiness in the UK premiere of Canadian composer John Estacio’s atmospheri­c Moontides to sustaining the hugely challengin­g muted contemplat­ion of Vaughan Williams’ A Pastoral Symphony, NYOC were invariably confident and assured.

The string sound glistens and shimmers, while brass are rich yet mellow, with conductor Jonathan Darlington sensitivel­y allowing space for the orchestra – and audience – to enjoy its expansive bloom. Winds brought a timeless innocence to Copland’s Appalachia­n Spring, whether in precise ensemble passages or solos across the section. Picking up on the 100th anniversar­y of the end of the First World War, the Vaughan Williams was a meandering reflection of his personal experience­s in the battlefiel­ds of France.

The lushness of string sound, appearing in swells and swathes, suited his writing well, with the wordless singing from off-stage mezzo soprano, Marjorie Maltais, a moment of particular resonance.

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