National Youth Orchestra of Canada
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.