A Singer's Notes by Keith Kibler

A Singer’s Notes 152: National Youth Orchestra of the United States at Tanglewood, Sir Antonio Pappano conduction, with Isabel Leonard, Mezzo-Soprano

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Isabel Leonard joins the National Youth Orchestra of the USA for Berlioz's Nuits d'ete. Photo Hilary Scott.
Isabel Leonard joins the National Youth Orchestra of the USA for Berlioz’s Nuits d’ete. Photo Hilary Scott.

National Youth Orchestra of the United States at Tanglewood

Conductor Antonio Pappano led the young players of the National Youth Orchestra of the United States in a spectacular performance of Richard Strauss’s Alpine Symphony on August 1st in Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood. The Alpine Symphony is well-known to be one of the most difficult orchestral pieces in the symphonic repertoire. To watch the intensity of these instrumentalists was almost as wonderful as hearing them. The hall vibrated with exuberance as well as tenderness. Conductor Antonio Pappano has every right to be proud of this superb young group of players.

The concert also included Les Nuits d’été by Hector Berlioz for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, a song cycle consisting of settings of six poems by Théophile Gautier. Soloist Isabel Leonard’s singing of each movement was delicately rendered and conveyed generously to her audience. The youthful orchestral players delivered Berlioz’s brilliant orchestration with great skill and subtlety.

At the conclusion of the Strauss work, and after much applause, we were treated to an encore of the beautiful slow movement “Nimrod” from the Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar. The opening measures from the string sections brought a silence to the auditorium, an attentiveness that lasted through the entire variation which was beautifully played and heart-felt.

The National Youth Orchestra is on tour to perform in several U.S. and European cities this summer. No doubt they will receive an enthusiastic response to their professional and mature playing, and that they will inspire joy with their energy and commitment to their performances.

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