Lindau is a picturesque south German town in the district of Bavaria at the eastern end of the Bodensee, or as it may be better known, Lake Constance. The Jugendkapelle, the Young Persons Band, is part of the Music School of Lindau.
It is what we would call a "concert band," that is a wind band or orchestra made up of the normal wind instruments of the orchestra together with a percussion department. There were about 50 young people, aged between 13 and 20, including six percussion players and one bass guitarist. This is the only overseas orchestra that is taking part in the FBYO this year.
The dynamic range of 50 people blowing wind instruments, plus a complete range of percussion instruments, is very limited, not forgetting the limitations imposed by the venue. It is just not possible for that number of players to play very soft, whereas they can play very, very loud. This small dynamic range is not necessarily limiting, but after a while, one would like to hear something a bit softer, perhaps just a small group playing together? I hope that this does not make it seem to have been a painful experience to sit through an hour of this band playing, because it was anything but. It really was a very enjoyable experience, but as an experienced member of the audience said afterwards: "there is something of a sameness about all the pieces!" The saving grace was that the music was excellently played. The ensemble playing, the intonation and the expression were all excellent. One really couldn't fault the band at all.
The music played today was all arrangements, mainly of film scores, with. the exception of the opening piece. This was Arsenal by the modern Belgian composer Jan van der Roost, which was a stately concert march specially composed in 1996 for a wind band to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Harmonie van het Spoorwegarsenaal' [railroad arsenal].
This was followed by an arrangement, by Paul Lavender, of film music by John Williams, including Star Wars and Jaws. Another arrangement, this time by Johan de Mey, of film scores entitled James Bond 007, the music from the Bond films. Ronan Hardiman is an Irish composer who wrote the music for Michael Flatley's stage show Lord of the Dance; an arrangement of this music by Frank Bernaerts was the next piece. A quieter ballad-style number, Vincent Clarke's hit song Only you, arranged by Hans Vansant, followed this.
The next piece was listed as Omens of love. This was a piece for wind band composed by the modern Japanese composer Hirotaka Izumi and arranged by a prolific Japanese arranger called Toshio Mashimal; it did not appear to be related to the Gino Vanelli song of the same name.
We were then treated to a selection of "classics" (Bizet, Mozart, Liszt, Rossini), played on the xylophone, with band accompaniment, by a young man called Matthias, who was a stand-in for the original soloist who had injured his shoulder a week before. He gave an excellent performance of well known tunes from these various composers. This was followed by Johann Strauss's well known Trisch-Trasch Polka. The concert finished with another John Williams composition, the March from 1941, a film by Steven Spielberg.
After prolonged, well-deserved, applause, the conductor, Thomas Spies, introduced an encore, a march from the band's home state of Bavaria. This typical German marching tune brought an excellent concert to a close. One small criticism: there was no programme or hand out with information about the orchestra, where it came from, or anything about the music they were playing. All we had to go on was what was printed in the FBYO overall programme. The concert was introduced, in excellent English, by one of the young lady members of the band. While this was satisfactory for the audience, which was disappointingly small, it did make this reviewer's life a bit more difficult.
© Charlie Napier 25 August 2007. First published on www.edinburghguide.com.
Run: The 28th Festival of British Youth Orchestras runs from 11 August to 1 September 2007
Complete programme: Online from NAYO