City of Sheffield Youth Orchestra

St Marie’s RC Cathedral

WITH an average age of 16 to 17, this is the youngest orchestra the CSYO has ever had and if they stay together for another couple of years who knows what it is capable of achieving on this evidence.

Mahler’s First Symphony is not exactly easy to bring off for young musicians, especially the opening movement marked ‘slowly, dragging, very restrained throughout’. Conducting from memory, under the excellent Christopher Gayford’s guiding hand, the orchestra sustained it with admirable concentration.

They played with maturity beyond their years throughout and, while all was perhaps not perfect, the occasional fluffs and intonation problems (and they were occasional!) seemed insignificant in the face the energy and sheer musicianship in an astonishing performance – the only way to describe it, really.

They were just as good partnering Natalie Clein, initially in Bruch’s Kol Nidrei, where the renowned cellist produced wonderfully meaningful shading and shaping of the plaintive melody against the gently dramatic, sonorous orchestral background.

Legato playing, not virtuosic fireworks, is the primary order for the work and Clein delivered it in abundance, also in Bloch’s colourful Schelomo which had bags of drama as she swayed to the full-blooded playing of the CSYO in between bouts of gloriously expressive cello playing.

Pirates of Penzance

Buxton Opera House

GARY Slavin’s production of the ubiquitous work has its points but stretches the phrase “brand new” somewhat.

It uses the same old Gilbert and Sullivan Festival stock sets by Paul Lazell which have been utilised there so many times by amateur companies, as well as professional Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company stagings like this one, they have become visually boring.

The American director makes good his intention to get dancing into the production and generally it comes off successfully, the piece de résistance being the ‘Tiller Girl’ line at the end of With Cat-like Tread.

Slavin extends choreography to hand movement, while elsewhere his freshening-up ideas will not cause traditionalists the slightest pang of remorse.

Simon Butteriss patters at speed without babbling and, unlike some Major Generals, has a singing voice for Sighing Softly, while the outstanding voice belongs to the versatile young baritone James Cleverton as the Pirate King.

Jeremy Finch’s believable Frederic is intelligently sung with next to no high register extension in his voice, and Bruce Graham is a much-experienced Sergeant of Police, neither he nor his constables overdoing the buffoonery.

A nicely judged performance of Ruth by Louise Crane is well sung but curiously lacks volume at times, although Rebecca Moon managed to find it in a competently sung and confident Mabel, having emerged from the chorus play her at the 11th hour.

Conductor Timothy Henty takes a chamber-like approach to score and draws detailed, lightly sprung playing from the first-rate National Festival Orchestra.

Bernard Lee