AYO Blog

AYO National Music Camp 2024: Concert Review 2
By Victor Arul

Young people dressed in concert blacks walk across a sunny courtyard.
A chamber orchestra performs in a concert hall.

The first concert of National Music Camp 2024 was initiated with the zestful Short Ride in a Fast Machine by John Adams, performed by the Alexander Orchestra under the baton of Ariel Zuckermann. The Alexander Orchestra’s pace was not the typical sprint which you might assume from the title. The orchestra was adamant that overwhelm does not have to be one of sheer speed. The ‘overwhelm’ here was ambidextrous – stacking sound upon sound, decisive shifts of texture, mercurial accumulations of volume. John Adams described this piece as analogous to the torrential feeling one has when riding in a ‘terrific sports car’ – the Alexander orchestra tonight demonstrated to us how multidimensional such an experience can really be.

The frivolity of Short Ride was followed by the exaltation of Hinterland, composed by National Music’s composition tutor – Lachlan Skipworth. The piece began with a fierce repeated gesture; a brooding atmosphere rendered excellently by the strings. The textural starkness here transformed into an intricate unravelling and waning of voices. The piece transcends any trite linearity – on one hand there is a sense of polish and organisation. There is a conceptual elegance in the realisation of texture, captivating us with its logical flow. On the other hand, the melodies excel beyond the strict and mechanical; they are unbound and emotional, almost atemporal at times. The Dionysiac and Apollonian converge ineffably in Hinterland.

The Brislan Orchestra, led by Sophie Rowell, followed with Sally Beamish’s The Day Dawn. Beginning from a single tone in the lowest depths, the other ensemble members emerged in succession. The accumulation demonstrated a cherish for individuality. While large ensembles are powerful in their capacity to assimilate an indivisible canvas, the Brislan Orchestra moves us with their zooming in on the ecosystem.

Anton Arensky’s Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky was played next. A contrast to the contemplation of the Beamish, the Brislan Orchestra projected playfulness and balance – decorous with scatterings of ebullience as sections of the orchestra soar. There was balance on the immediate level and a journey on the global-scale – a non-semantic parable was uttered through these phrases.

The concert ended with the Bishop Orchestra’s performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No.7, conducted by Toby Thatcher. In the work’s introduction, the woodwinds provide an indefatigable tones, lasers of unwavering resolve over the cosmic textural weavers. The searing quality set by the woodwinds foreshadowed the next 47 minutes. The orchestra’s attitude sweltered throughout the performance, a rawness manifested through violin downbow stabs, dynamic escalations from the horns, orchestral skewers. Junctures of silence augmented the tension, the breathlessness of the symphony tactile at these nodes.

The performances travelled through an ocean of heterogeneity – contemplation, glare, flurry, trawl – the concert was a defiant voyage of many terrains. We began with a short ride, but ended with an extensive excursion.