Gems From the GVYO
Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra
Yariv Aloni, conductor
University Centre Auditorium
November 9, 2008
By Deryk Barker
Beethoven's Eighth Symphony, we are often reminded, is the shortest and smallest, in terms of orchestral
forces, of all his mature symphonies.
Which probably goes a long way towards explaining the frequency of its performances in the Capital Region: I
have heard it in Sooke, Sidney and several times in Victoria.
What should never be assumed, though, is that the symphony is in some way simpler than its siblings. As
Robert Simpson has pointed out, in the Eighth Beethoven often seems to be experimenting with form,
anticipating some of the revolutionary structures of the late quartets. An updated Haydn symphony it most
certainly is not.
Yariv Aloni and the Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra ended the first half of Sunday's programme with a
performance of the Eighth which was far from perfunctory. From the crisp, clean opening to the
more-than-usual finality of the last chord, it was a performance to enjoy.
Aloni paced and shaped the music well and his players responded in kind. In the third movement, for instance,
balances were very good and entries clearly delineated. The tricky cello line in the trio was nicely done and
the winds delectable.
The extraordinary finale - does it have an exceptionally long coda or is there actually, as Robert Simpson
suggest, a second development section - was exuberant almost to the point of boisterousness, yet not lacking
Georges Enesco's Rumanian Rhapsody No.1 is less frequently heard today than was once the case, which is a
pity. The music, while scarcely profound, is alternately beautiful and exciting, colourfully scored and
Sunday's performance employed commendably flexible tempos and showed the skills of this latest
incarnation of the orchestra to full effect.
Highlights included a superb viola solo from Rachel Kratofil and more delicious winds. There is a definite
gypsy influence at work - as there is in Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies - and there were moments when the
excitement mounted almost to fever pitch and one would not have been at all surprised to see the players kick
out one leg and shout "Oi!"
The music of Eric Coates is not often heard performed by non-specialist orchestra today either and one
suspects a certain snobbishness here. It, too, is superbly orchestrated and endowed with the kind of melody
that sticks in the mind. But, of course, it is "light" music. (And a Strauss waltz is not, I
For those of us who are of a certain age and who grew up in Britain, Coates's music is an indelible part
of our childhood. The last movement of his London Suite for Orchestra, for example, is the
"Knightsbridge" March. It often has the subtitle "In Town Tonight" added, for the simple
reason that, for almost three decade, beginning in November 1933, the BBC used it as the signature tune for a
radio programme of that name. (Indeed, when the programme first aired, over 20,000 people wrote to the BBC
asking for the name of the music.)
I find it difficult, therefore, to be remotely objective about this music.
Having said which, Sunday's performance of the London Suite seemed a very fine one to me. Covent Garden was as lively and busy as the old fruit and vegetable market used to be - until
the 1970s "The Garden", as it was known, was just that and not a tourist trap full of chi-chi
shops. The market was relocated to the far less romantic Nine Elms.
Westminster was lush and tranquil (it depicts a nighttime scene) and featured a
wonderful example of Coates's ear for sonorities: a cello solo (the excellent Emily Burton) doubled by
English horn and muted trumpet.
Finally, the march which was brisk and exciting. Even without the voice of the BBC announcer.
The most sombre note of the afternoon came at the beginning, in the shape of Mendelssohn's overture to
St. Paul, which received an appropriately Mendelssohnian performance. By which I mean that, even in the more
outgoing moments, there was a certain restraint - the final tutti, for example, was full-bodied but never
Each year the GVYO personnel changes by around 30 per cent and there is never any guarantee that the numbers
will be as evenly distributed as might be wished; this year, for example, there are seven each of first and
second violins and ten cellos, but only four violas and two doubles basses. Yet somehow Aloni and his players
manage to make it sound almost perfectly balanced - actually the large number of cellists probably helped
And, despite the occasional dubious intonations and minor lapses in ensemble, I venture to suggest that
nobody who was unaware of the fact would have guessed that some thirteen members of the orchestra were
playing in their first concert.
All of which bodes well for the rest of their season.
A most enjoyable afternoon's music.