Review of Dunedin Youth Orchestra

12 Cellists of Otago go dancing at Sargood Centre

Rich sonority and sinuous rhythms warmed the capacity house for the Twelve Cellos on Sunday afternoon. The Sargood Centre is acoustically and architecturally excellent for large chamber groups. The programme devised by director Heleen du Plessis, highlighted we were told, the cello’s ability to conjure humanities’ deeper emotions. It also brought welcome attention to living composers.

The programme opened however with Handel’s courtly elegance showcased by Menuet, Gavotte and Le Rejouissance to which the twelve cellos rather than the more usual three, added pleasing gravity. Movements from Ronald Petersen’s “Dances for Six” were quite beautifully gentle and wistful. The name Piazzolla is synonymous with Tango and especially with his scintillating “Libertango”, arranged by D Johnstone to include some introductory rhythmic slapping and knocking of the cello body. Piazzolla’s “Oblivion” arrange by Vilajero for four cellos is less recognizable. Its superb melodic and harmonic lines overshadowed the plucked pulse which be better served by a double basses’ reverberations.

Allan Stephenson’s “Souvenir de Sevilla” for sex cellos did not come off so well. The seven players, reportedly hampered by rehearsal difficulties which seemed not to bedevil the other works, lacked coherence through the piece’s difficult timing. M. McLean‘s Tango Chromatique from “Six Dances for String Quartet” was performed by six violins and two cellos under the direction of Tessa Petersen. It is a delightfully sinuous and flirtatious work and though passages in the upper register soared successfully overall the piece became denser but not necessarily richer through the number of players. Similarly Borodin’s well-known “Polovtsian Dances No 2” performed by the twelve cellos gained an unattractive gruffness. Kibbe’s “Mello Cellos Tango” concluded the event on a high note.

Twelve cellos performing together produce an intriguing and appealing sound which has quickly and worthily gained wide recognition.

Marian Poole