Review: "Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra has watershed moment with Bruckner, Briggs"

The Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra and music director Brett Mitchell kicked off their 2016-17 season Friday, Nov. 18 at Severance Hall with a momentous program pairing a commissioned work by Roger Briggs with the Fourth Symphony of Bruckner. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

The Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra and music director Brett Mitchell kicked off their 2016-17 season Friday, Nov. 18 at Severance Hall with a momentous program pairing a commissioned work by Roger Briggs with the Fourth Symphony of Bruckner. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) has published a review of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra's first subscription performance of the 2016-17 season:

Never has the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra more closely resembled its namesake....

COYO's performance Friday of Bruckner and a brand-new work was...a watershed moment, a giant and bold stride in the footsteps of its elders.

Generating and performing new music isn't the usual work of a youth orchestra. COYO, however, is far from typical. To kick off his last season as music director, conductor Brett Mitchell hired North Carolina-based composer Roger Briggs, his former teacher, to pen the group's 15th world premiere.

He couldn't have chosen better. Not only does "Fountain of Youth," the piece Briggs produced, depict in music the youthful force COYO itself represents. Weighty and complex, it also constitutes a serious musical challenge, one right at the ensemble's ever-rising level....

All of this COYO handled with aplomb, bringing off a cinematic performance Friday night at Severance Hall marked on the one hand by churning, motoric energy and smooth lyricism on the other. No matter the intricacies or expansive gestures Briggs threw at them, the group as coached by Mitchell responded much as the Cleveland Orchestra would: with confidence, balance, and expression.

And that wasn't the group's only accomplishment. Also on the program: COYO's first Bruckner. Specifically, Bruckner's "Romantic" Symphony No. 4, in its revised 1878/80 edition, a mammoth work lasting over an hour.

But this was more than just a feat of endurance. Guided by Mitchell, COYO...accomplished something artistic of which they can be rightly proud.

All the big-picture elements were in alignment. Structurally, COYO's Bruckner was as sound as any, its pacing and thematic development perfectly organic. Each of the three large movements reached a hard-hitting peak at the end of a steady, gradual climb.

Likewise the details. The depth of the group's rehearsals was evident in the graceful lilt of the Andante, the solid brilliance of the brass in the Scherzo, and the sweet but forceful balance struck by the strings in the Finale. From a mere reading of the score, these touches elevated COYO's performance to a true, thoughtful interpretation....

All of which begs the question of where COYO goes from here. Wagner operas? Strauss tone poems? The later works of Shostakovich? At this point, with Bruckner under its belt, the group appears equal to just about anything.

To read the complete review, please click here.