Music Review

New youth orchestra concludes its first season

Conductor Benjamin Zander and the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra will begin a tour of the Netherlands next month.
Koren Reyes/File
Conductor Benjamin Zander and the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra will begin a tour of the Netherlands next month.

CAMBRIDGE — Born under storm clouds yet clearly thriving at the end of its first year, the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra gave its final local performance of the season on Wednesday in Sanders Theatre. Next month the ensemble, under the direction of Benjamin Zander, sets out on an ambitious five-concert tour of the Netherlands.

Claiming a slightly different niche than the other fine youth orchestras in town, BPYO draws advanced students all the way up through their undergraduate years, with roughly 40 percent of the ensemble in college (or conservatory) and 60 percent in high school.

Wednesday’s program seemed designed to showcase the depth of talent within its own ranks, and was devoted mostly to individual movements from various concertos, delivered by a parade of musicians from the orchestra. The levels of poise and technical accomplishment were striking from first to last, and each performer left a distinct impression of at least one aspect of his or her playing.


Colby Parker brought a rich yet soft-edged lyricism to the slow movement of Vaughan Williams’s Bass Tuba Concerto. August Ramos displayed a clarity of articulation in the rapid passagework of Vanhal’s challenging Double Bass Concerto. Anna DeLoi brought out the poetry and earthy virtuosity of Ginastera’s famous Harp Concerto. And Jonathan Gentry not only delivered a fluid account of the first movement of Mozart’s Oboe Concerto in C (K. 314) but also chose to manage without a conductor.

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Mitsuru Yonezaki determinedly lit into the Burlesca from Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1, delivering the movement with a fierce intensity. Keith Williams took a similarly spirited line of attack with the Walton Cello Concerto, teeing off on its middle movement with focused vigor. Max Tan, the only player to take on a full work, gave a warmly rhapsodic and deeply felt account of Chausson’s “Poème.” And leading off the entire parade was Francesca Bass, playing the first movement of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4 with a full tone and a striking generosity of expression.

The program began and ended with works seemingly chosen to showcase the collective virtuosity of the orchestra: Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet” Fantasy-Overture and Ravel’s “La Valse.” The latter made a stronger impression, with Zander and the orchestra effectively communicating both the genuine lilt and nostalgia in this music but also the dark currents swirling beneath its surface, the proverbial waltz atop a volcano.

The night closed with Zander’s traditional bittersweet farewell to the graduating high-school seniors in the ensemble, courtesy of the “Nimrod” movement from Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations, played here with veiled emotion and gentle warmth. At the end of its first season, it’s clear that BPYO has already become a prized addition to a thriving youth-music scene. It’s also clearly a good moment to be a young classical musician in this city, with more large ensembles than ever before.

Jeremy Eichler can be reached at