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Time for reflection as orchestras combine; REVIEW: Welsh Sinfonia and National Youth Orchestra Wales, Llandaff Cathedral.

THERE were reasons to be both cheerful and concerned at this excellent concert in the fine venue of Llandaff Cathedral.

The impressive musicianship and enthusiasm of the gifted players of the National Youth Orchestra of Wales (NYOW) shone through in a programme they shared with the professionals of Welsh Sinfonia.

But as conductor Mark Eager pointed out, the opportunities to nurture such fine music makers are being eroded as cuts in the age of austerity ravage music teaching in our schools.

But back to the reasons to be cheerful, of which there were many.

The varied programme had a common theme of quiet and often sombre reflection.

It began with the first movement of American composer John Adams' Shaker Loops, called Shaking and Trembling.

Not everyone appreciates the hypnotic power of this minimalist piece. The same is true of Arvo Part's Cantus in Memorium Benjamin Britten, which the orchestra played later in the evening.

Both were explored with fierce concentration by the orchestra and were given added poignancy by the setting.

Assembled under Sir Jacob Epstein's Christ in Majesty suspended above the nave, the orchestra produced ethereal music of the highest quality. This was particularly true in what was the highlight of the evening, Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, for which the orchestra is divided into three parts.

Violinist Robin Stowell did an excellent job of leading the Welsh Sinfonia and the NYOW under the assured direction of Mark Eager. It was a truly memorable performance by musicians who put their hearts and souls into it.

Morfydd Owen's Threnody for the Passing of Branwen, 1916, was dedicated to Nelson Mandela and was similar to another piece in the programme, Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings. Both were beautifully performed by the orchestra.

After a performance of Greensleeves, featuring NYOW players Catherine Hare (flute) and Alis Huws (harp), the evening ended with an exhilarating and commanding performance of Elgar's Introduction and Allegro for Strings.

Peter Collins
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 9, 2013
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