Yariv Aloni

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Twenty-ninth Season

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Sibelius, Grieg and Dvořák

Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra
Yariv Aloni, conductor
University Centre Auditorium
February 23, 2014

By Deryk Barker

"There are composers for whom music is an instrument for the expression of their poetic or philosophical ideas or their Titanism. On the other hand there are composes who are themselves the instruments of music and saturated with its beauty. The former express through music what touches them, the latter change to music what they touch. Among these latter are the geniuses Haydn, Mozart and Schubert ... and Dvořák."

So wrote the Czech composer Vitèzslav Novák; and which among us would wish to disagree?

It was with a resplendent performance of Dvořák's Symphony No.8 that Yariv Aloni and the latest incarnation of the Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra closed their second concert of the season.

As the eighth is my favourite Dvořák symphony, even though I will readily admit that the seventh is the greater work, and as Aloni and the GVYO are some of my favourite musicians, local or otherwise, I had been greatly looking forward to this particular performance - nor was I disappointed.

From the gloriously expressive opening cello melody (excellently shored up by violas and trombones) to the explosion of joy which is the final coda, Aloni and his players put not a foot wrong.

I had been put on notice that the orchestra were sounding particularly good in rehearsal and that was certainly borne out in performance: strings were silky smooth and rich-hued (and, of course, in tune); woodwinds were chirpily full of character; brass powerful yet never harsh. This really was very fine orchestral playing and a distinguished performance by any standard.

Grieg's Lyric Suite has a somewhat complex history; in 1894, Anton Seidl conducted the New York Philharmonic in the so-called Norwegian Suite, his own orchestration of four pieces of the six in Book V of Grieg's Lyric Pieces for piano.

Several years after Seidl's death Grieg obtained the score and was not satisfied with Seidl's somewhat Wagnerian treatment; accordingly, as he wrote to Seidl's widow, he had revised the orchestrations; in fact Grieg discarded one of Seidl's efforts (Bell-Ringing) and substituted Shepherd Boy which he orchestrated from scratch. He dubbed the new arrangements Lyric Suite

The opening Shepherd Boy for strings and harp, features some cruelly-exposed violin lines and here, for the only time in the afternoon, there was some slightly-less-than-perfect intonation, but it only really registered because it was so unusual.

Overall this was a marvellous performance, full of character and beautifully played. I particularly enjoyed the final March of the Dwarfs (a slightly more sober Hall of the Mountain King) with its excellent dynamics, gorgeous lyrical central section and terrifically precise final chord.

The programme opened with the Karelia Overture by Sibelius, although the wintry weather outside the hall would probably have been better suited by something a little more bleak - Tapiola, say.

From the opening bar, the orchestral sound was full and rich and the playing commendably idiomatic.

A wonderfully enjoyable afternoon's music-making.

The orchestra will be issuing a recording of the programme and I, for one, can hardly wait.

a KATHERINE ROGERS design