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The Future Looks Bright

06/18/2012 -  
Johannes Brahms: Academic Festival Overture, op. 80
Edward Elgar: Enigma Variations, op. 36
Richard Wagner: Tristan and Isolde: Prelude and Liebestod
Antonín Dvorák: Symphony No. 8 in G Major, op. 88

Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra, James Feddeck (conductor)

(© Mark Horning)

The Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra, short COYO, is considered one of the best youth orchestras in North America, and is one of the very few affiliated with a top American Symphony Orchestra. Founded more than a quarter century ago, the COYO has since introduced thousands of young musicians to the art and joy of symphonic music making. The members, between the age of 12 and 18, come from every corner of Ohio and from as far as Western Pennsylvania. They are selected for the COYO in a vigorous audition process. Some of the students travel as long as 3 hours to weekend rehearsals. This, after a week of school, private lessons on their instruments, playing in their local school orchestras and also hopefully getting some time to be “normal” teenagers. Their dedication is rewarded with a superb orchestral experience, coaching by members of the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, the privilege to perform regularly at Cleveland’s Severance Hall – and lifelong friendships with their fellow musicians.

75 young musicians, accompanied by a group of enthusiastic parents and grandparents, recently embarked on their first concert tour of Europe. Some of the students had scarcely travelled outside Ohio or the United States before, let alone to a different continent. In fact, some of the students had never yet been on a plane. With the support of a special Touring Fund the COYO members were able to see where the music they play comes from, while they shared their joy of music making with audiences in the Czech Republic and Austria.

The Youth Orchestra performed three concerts within a week: at the Dvorák Hall in Prague, at the Mozarteum in Salzburg and at the (acoustically challenging) “Minoritenkirche” (Church of the Minorites) in Vienna. Their ambitious program opened with Johannes Brahm’s Akademische Festoverture. It was immediately apparent that music director James Feddeck and the COYO love each other. Elgar’s Enigma Variations was an excellent program choice. Each variation highlights different orchestral groups that were here carefully prepared. Feddeck demonstrated his sense for musical architecture in the dramatic build-up of the “Nimrod” variation. Clarinetist Rosemary Bullock was particularly impressive. This brilliant young musician certainly has a bright future ahead. Outstanding were also principal violist Jessica Pasternak and solo cellist Hannah Moses.

The second part of the concert opened with Richard Wagner’s Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde. Three days earlier COYO had performed the same program in Prague. They certainly brought Czech spirit to their interpretation of Dvorák’s charming 8th Symphony! Concertmaster James Thompson played his solo in the second movement with Bohemian warmth. The trumpets opened the last movement of the symphony with a triumphant fanfare.

Any professional orchestra would have been worn out after such a demanding program. Not the COYO: as encore they performed Anatol Liadov’s melodious ballade About Olden Times – probably in reverence to “Old Europe”. The evening was an inspiring experience for both orchestra and audience. With such dedicated young musicians and educators, the future for classical music does look bright.

The Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra

Wiebke Kuester



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