national concert hall, dublin
The 90-plus members of the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland assemble on the platform of the National Concert Hall under the direction of RTE NSO principal conductor Alan Buribayev.
The programme choice is demanding, with Shostakovich's lengthy 10th Symphony as its main work preceded by snippets of Rimsky-Korsakov; and it also finds a rewarding niche for Mozart's Flute and Harp Concerto.
The latter brings the beautifully balanced sibling duo of Fiona and Jean Kelly, who hail from a remarkable Cork musical family.
Flautist Fiona, a graduate of the Julliard School in New York, has, among other things, been playing with that city's Philharmonic Orchestra, while harpist Jean, a product of London's Royal College of Music, has appeared with numerous ensembles in the UK capital and elsewhere. Fiona and Jean are former NYOI members.
In matching red designer frocks, the sisters capture the delicate playfulness of Mozart's opening Allegro. Fiona's mellifluous tone comes with faultless phrasing and breath control. Jean's decorative arpeggios were no less effortlessly fluid as both musicians blended beautifully.
The cantabile flute air of Mozart's central Andantino comes over ornamented harp flourishes, and the elegance of the composer's writing, despite his aversion to the wind instrument, is perfectly etched.
Maestro Buribayev sets a lovely pace for the rondo Finale. In this enchanting gavotte, the Kelly sisters' interpretation has a tasteful interplay of charm and refinement, exquisitely matched by NYOI's strings and coupled with delightful oboe and horn comments.
Alan Buribayev seems to have Shostakovich's 10th Symphony teeming through his veins and the orchestra's response is positively magnetic.
Exercising wonderful control over his young artists, Buribayev's command still never stifles their eager enthusiasm.
Overall, NYOI's playing has exciting quality, particularly in the aggressive Scherzo and the Finale's powerful climax.
Rimsky-Korsakov's Prelude and Battle sequence from his opera set The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh contrasts sombre and shimmering scenes in this atmospheric music. NYOI's artistry is no less colourful and 2012 is sure to go down as a vintage year in the orchestra's history.