The Vermont Youth Orchestra rides again

The Vermont Youth Orchestra performed again this last Sunday, January 20 at The Flynn Center For the Performing Arts -- they performed the preceding Sunday when they played their "Orchestrapalooza" concert that had been canceled due to a snowstorm in December. The focus of the afternoon was a new work by Daron Hagen, Orpheus and Euridice, Op. 94. The work is a triple concerto, and featured the Amelia Piano Trio for whom it was written. Hagen considers it to be an opera without words, and it certainly achieved that feeling. For those of you who were not there, let it be observed that Hagen's orchestral palette was quite similar to 20th century British romantic composers, especially those of Ralph Vaughn Williams, touches of whose orchestral brash were evident throughout the piece... and, I might add, the allusive nature of the work was appropriate to the idea of an Orpheus project. Hagen has created a soundscape that limns the famous Orpheus, musical portraits of whom appear certainly from the time of the early Italian Renaissance, as a Romantic figure. Despite the way the melodies might look on paper with their plenitude of accidentals and seemingly spiky lines, the bottom line, insofar as the audience was concerned, is that it is capital-R Romantic. The audience really liked the work. The Amelia Trio performed their part of the triple concerto with real engagement, and with a plenitude of technical abilities that made even the most difficult moments sound easy. The members of the trio are really sensitive to the most subtle of nuances in the interplay of their lines, and they breathed real life into their roles as Orpheus and Euridice. The same was true of the orchestra under the direction of Troy Peters: they partnered the trio beautifully, never disturbing the texture and never overshadowing the soloists. The flute player that joined one section of the work that was otherwise played by the trio alone was also to be commended. The concert had opened with a performance of the overture to Orpheus in the Underworld by Offenbach. The orchestra was in stellar form here, and particularly noteworthy was the solo passage played by Owen Kevra-Lenz, co-concertmaster of the orchestra who played first chair during the first half of the concert. If the triple concerto was the calling card for the concert, the genuine surprise of the afternoon was the playing of the Brahms Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Opus 68. It was a performance that any orchestra would have been glad to have given. The breadth of line, the Brahmsian rhythms and cross-rhythms, the depth of feeling -- everything conspired to make this a truly memorable performance (and fortunately it can be memorable in a practical sense because the entire concert was recorded and is available either as a CD or a DVD). There are too many orchestra members that particularly shone to mention them all, but I do have to mention Alice Hasen, the other co-concertmaster, who played her solo lines particularly beautifully. It was an amazing accomplishment by this group of young musicians to be able to turn out such a professional performance, and Peters & Co. (by which I mean the administrative members of the VYO and its board of directors) and all of those who sponsor this organization are to be lauded equally with each section of the orchestra. A performance such as this must be about the best return, dollar for dollar, that anyone can make -- and the great thing about every dollar spent in helping young people to achieve excellence like this, is that the investment is simultaneously in the future of music performance in Vermont. Concerts like this one -- as the pop song says about "Wild Thing" -- certainly makes my heart sing! (This CD/DVD of the program can be ordered prior to January 31 through the VYOA. For information check their on-line site or call them at 655-5030.)

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