Review: "Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra, Chorus model best of youthful music-making"

The Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra and music director Brett Mitchell, seen here in November 2016, reconvened Sunday for a program of Debussy, Poulenc, and Bates at Severance Hall. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

The Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra and music director Brett Mitchell, seen here in November 2016, reconvened Sunday for a program of Debussy, Poulenc, and Bates at Severance Hall. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) has published a review of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra's second subscription concert of the 2016-17 season, led by music director Brett Mitchell:

The tonal superiority of the youthful voice over its adult counterpart was demonstrated once again at Sunday night's Severance Hall concert by the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Chorus and the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra.

On the program: works by Debussy and Poulenc. There was also an orchestra-alone curtain raiser by American composer Mason Bates.

The first inkling of vocal freshness came at that felicitous moment in the third of Debussy's Nocturnes for orchestra, "Sirens," when unaccompanied women's voices suddenly blossom out of the sonorous musical web that Debussy weaves in the opening bars.

COYO music director Brett Mitchell had the happy notion to place the singers not on risers behind the orchestra but right in the midst of the players, which made for a rich blend of vocal and instrumental textures. Those who know Debussy's magical score could not have been but impressed by this magical effect, and the lightness and luster of these young voices, so ably rehearsed by COYC director Lisa Wong, was unforgettable.

The other movements of Debussy's triptych, "Clouds" and "Festivals," were given excellent performances by the COYO players, with muted coloristic effects to the fore in the former, and a flashes of light and movement in the latter. The distant trumpet fanfares in "Festivals" were especially nice....

The Cleveland Orchestra Youth Chorus returned on the second half of the program, taking their traditional place on the risers for Poulenc's Gloria, a late masterwork from 1959 that achieves a surprisingly satisfying alliance of the composer's sacred and profane duality....

Again, the youthful purity of the chorus was a central element in the performance's success. That, combined with the young singers' mature understanding of the music, made a strong case for this strange work. The orchestra, under Mitchell's baton, was brilliant, especially in the last section, when Poulenc calls for them to underscore the chorus with a blaze of sharply dissonant color.

To read the complete review, please click here.