City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

FBYO: Edinburgh Secondary Schools Orchestra. Festival of British Youth Orchestras Series 2007

By Charlie Napier - Posted on 26 August 2007

Show details
Central Hall
Music: Borodin - Symphony No.2 in B minor; Keith Murphy: Fractured lines; Mendelssohn: Violin concerto in E minor (First Movement); Klaus Badelt: Pirates of the Caribbean
Katherine Stewart (Violin); Edinburgh Secondary Schools Orchestra (ESSO), Alasdair Mitchell (Conductor).

As in previous years, the final concert in Festival of British Youth Orchestras
for 2007 was given by the Edinburgh Secondary Schools Orchestra (ESSO), under
the baton of its conductor for many years, Alasdair Mitchell. We are usually
not disappointed with a performance from the ESSO and that was true this evening.
I don't think I have heard the orchestra play so well and so consistently throughout
the whole concert as I did tonight. It was noticeable that the number of brass
and woodwind players was marginally down on what I have seen before and I think
that contributed to the better balance that was achieved. Perhaps it was better
training? Whatever the reason, the overall performance was much more pleasant
to listen to than those I have previously experienced in the Central Hall with
a full symphony orchestra.

The first half of the concert was taken up with just one work, Borodin's Second
This was quite a taxing work for these young players, but they
tackled it with enthusiasm and passion. Alasdair gave an excellent reading of
the score and it was translated by some fine playing into an enjoyable experience
for the audience. There was no evidence of any intonation problems in the strings
and overall, the ensemble playing was excellent. There were a few problems in
the brass and woodwind near the beginning of the second movement, but that was
well compensated for by the excellent horn solo at the beginning and end of
the third movement. There was a good lead straight into the last movement which
was a good old Russian "knees-up".

After the interval, the brass, woodwind and percussion sections had the stage
to themselves in RSAMD-trained Keith Murphy's Fractured lines. This work
was commissioned by Midlothian County Council for its Schools orchestra and
premiered at this festival in 2004. This is an interesting piece, the work developing
from a haunting melody, first played on the flutes, and then by the different
instruments with varying rhythms, thus being "fractured". It certainly
allowed these three sections of the orchestra to show off a bit.

This was followed by the first movement of Mendelssohn's popular Violin concerto,
the solo part being played by the leader of the orchestra, 19-year-old Katherine
Stewart. After a slightly nervous start, Kathleen gradually warmed up and gave
a lovely performance, her technique and tone improving as she gained confidence.
This was a fine performance and Alasdair Mitchell ensured, with his usual skill,
that the orchestra supported the soloist and did not overwhelm her. Katherine
is going on to study the violin at the Royal College of Music in London as well
as studying mathematics at Imperial College, London. (Nothing like having two
strings to her bow - eh?)

The concert finished with a flourish - short suite of music from the film Pirates
of the Caribbean.
This was all swash and buckle, thunder and lightning,
typical music from an action film. According to the programme notes, the music
was composed by Klaus Badelt, but was actually produced in only six weeks by
a team of one music supervisor, eight composers, nine orchestrators and three
conductors. What a nightmare that must have been. It was a good rousing finish
to a very good and enjoyable concert.

Thankfully, there was a good audience to hear the youngsters and they certainly
gave them a rousing reception at the end.

They were rewarded by the playing of the last half of the Pirates music
to send us all cheerfully on our way for another year.

© Charlie Napier 01 September 2007. First published on

Run The 28th Festival of British Youth Orchestras runs from 11 August
to 1 September 2007
Complete programme: Online from NAYO