St David’s Hall took centre stage for the final concert of the National Youth Orchestra of Wales annual tour, having already previously performed in Bangor and Cardiff. This year some of Wales’ most talented young musicians were guided under the baton by internationally acclaimed conductor Carlo Rizzi. Carlo Rizzi guided the musicians through a, on paper, highly ambitious programme of Richard Strauss Suite from Der Rosenkavalier and Till Eulenspiegels Lustige Streiche, Benjamin Britten Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes and Claude Debussy La Mer. One thing that stands out and joins all four pieces together is the programmatic settings with each piece highlighting a particular story or using the orchestra to paint a picture.
The first half began with the first of two Strauss pieces Suite from Der Rosenkavalier. The suite takes music from one of Strauss’s most famous opera’s the comic Der Rosenkavalier beginning with a passionate orchestral prelude with blaring brass and horn fanfares. Carlo Rizzi cut a passionate and energetic figure not only in this piece but throughout the concert. This big opening makes way for a duet between the oboe and horn, with lush strings and delicate percussion. The young orchestra gave a good account of conveying the different styles and moods of the suite. The suite ends with an ecstatic waltz with the brass and percussion are particularly powerful.
This was followed by Strauss’s tone poem Till Eulenspiegels Lustige Streiche that followed on the light comic theme and tone of the first half. Strauss’s tone poem depicts the pranks of medieval folk hero Till Eulenspiegel. The orchestra again gave character to the piece especially highlighted by the contrast between the grave funeral march, which is interspersed with jovial music which represents Till. The piece also gave prominence to certain instruments most notably the solo violin, woodwind and horns.
In contrast to the comic nature of the Strauss pieces of the first half, Britten’s Four Sea Interludes and Debussy’s La Mer both created much darker tone and atmosphere, while displaying each composer’s own interpretation of sea. The first through a series of interludes from Britten’s opera Peter Grimes, depicting dawn, Sunday morning, moonlight and finally storm, which together help to create “the most fully developed character” of the opera the Sea itself. On the other hand, Debussy depicts the sea through set of symphonic sketches for orchestra. Both pieces showed the potential use of orchestra highlighting the talent in all the sections of the orchestra.
The night concluded with short speech by Carlo Rizzi to a well-attended audience in which he brought up the ambitious nature of the programme. Despite this the orchestra rose to the challenges with wonderful aplomb.