String Sensations: 33rd National Youth Concerto Competition

Old Museum Concert Hall (Queensland Youth Symphony)


For the concerto lover it’s a rare treat to have the Tchaikovsky and Sibelius violin concertos on the same program, plus Dvorák’s cello concerto, and this is what QYO offered in its annual finals concert for the national youth competion.

In a magnificent afternoon of music, three extraordinarily talented musicians all of them still legally children played these complex and difficult works to an audience that was clearly impressed.

Emily Sun, 17, from Sydney was first-up, gracing the stage with an almost regal presence, playing the beautiful Sibelius work with a high level of technical control. Following her was Russian-born Dasha Moloksher, also 17, who played the Tchaikovsky with the soul and warmth of her and the composer’s homeland. Finally, 15-year-old Christopher Mui put in a confident and seemingly flawless rendition of the Dvorák masterpiece. The young soloists impressively handled the cadenzas and other difficult passages which have challenged many an older player.

The Queensland Youth Symphony under its remarkable founder and director John Curro provided a rich and full-bodied accompaniment to the soloists. Playing in their assortment of brightly coloured tops, the orchestra relished the grand explosive moments featured in each of these concertos, but also played with subdued consistency in the more gentle supportive passages.

The balance wasn’t always right for example, in parts of the Sibelius the higher strings seemed overwhelmed by brass and lower strings. However the grand theme in the Tchaikovsky first movement and the conclusion of the Dvorák were magnificent in the strength and unity displayed. Each of the three slow movements was a model of discipline and good timing.

There was consistently lovely woodwind work and beautiful interplays of voices, including a touching passage from the orchestra’s leader, Louise Cottone.

A nice coda to the concert was Colin Brumby’s “Festival Overture on Australian Themes”, ably conducted by Sergei V. Korschmin.

The concert was, of course, a competition, and in what was conceded was a difficult decision the four judges awarded the prize to Emily Sun. It’s worth noting that one of her predecessors in winning this prize is the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s Richard Tognetti, perhaps Australia’s best-known violinist.

Each of these prodigies has the talent to be as famous as Tognetti, and we wish them every good fortune.

— John Henningham
(Performance seen: Sat 25th October 2008)