WWI Concert at Disney Hall: The Reviews are In!

January 15, 2016—Last Sunday’s phenomenal concert by OCYSO and YMF at Disney Concert Hall, in commemoration of the WWI Centenary, was followed by glowing reviews in the Orange County Register, The Los Angeles Times, and in Musical America. Orange County Youth Symphony Orchestra and Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra, led by Maestros Daniel Alfred Wachs and Yuga Cohler, deserve to take a well-earned collective bow.  Links and selected excerpts from the reviews can be found below.

Orange County Register:



“The Orange County Youth Symphony Orchestra, 46 years old, and the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra, 60 years old, collaborated Sunday evening at Walt Disney Concert Hall in a serious, thought-inducing program that was dispatched with élan. The two ensembles should plan to get together again soon.”

“The concert opened with the Ives, a pre-war piece that nevertheless ponders the eternal question of existence. The polished reading put the listener in the right frame of mind for the rest of the concert.”

“Wachs led a wonderfully clear and patient traversal [of Turnage’s “Passchendaele”], finding order in complexity. The young musicians appeared to have little trouble with the work’s progressive language.”

“The Debut Orchestra’s new music director, 26-year-old Yuga Cohler, took over the podium for the Nielsen….[and] it was great to hear with such a large ensemble of enthusiastic musicians laying into it, with a high degree of precision no less.”

“The two conductors shared bows at the end, and exchanged a hug. May the relationship continue.”

To read the full review, click here.

Los Angeles Times:



MarkSwe2By Mark SwedContact Reporter



It was only the youth orchestras that evening at Disney that played something new. Mark-Anthony Turnage’s “Passchendaele,” a co-commission by the OC Youth Symphony, had its U.S. debut. Composed for the 2014 remembrance of the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, this is a somber score with edgy harmonies and eerie solos for trombone, horn, trumpet and three flutes.

Led by symphony Music Director Daniel Alfred Wachs, the performance was mature and moving, as was Ives’ “The Unanswered Question” that began the evening with wondrous grace. The theme was World War I (a symposium was held at the L.A. Public Library earlier in the day), and the program ended with Young Musicians Foundation’s new music director, Yuga Cohler, leading an enthusiastic if uncentered performance of Nielsen’s 1916 “Inextinguishable” Symphony.

The highlight here was a pair of young timpanists banging away like they were in a rock band. Cohler notes in the program booklet that he wants to find a connection between Beethoven and Kanye West in his next concert. After all, Southern California is supposed to be the place where you can reinvent yourself, and that goes for symphony orchestras as well as everything else.

To read the full review, click here.

Musical America:




So Cal Youth Orchestras Pay Tribute to WWI
By Richard S. Ginell, MusicalAmerica.com
January 14, 2016

“LOS ANGELES—In wartime, it is the young who are asked, or ordered, to fight. Appropriately, two very good, long-standing Southern California youth orchestras—the Orange County Youth Symphony Orchestra and Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra—offered a program in commemoration of the outbreak of World War I in Walt Disney Concert Hall January 10.  It was a short one, totaling less than an hour of music, but it packed a potent punch.”

“OCYSO Music Director Daniel Alfred Wachs took charge of the first half of the evening, with the huge young orchestra crammed to the very edges of the Disney Hall stage.  The baton-less conductor set the right atmosphere for The Unanswered Question by getting the strings to open with a slow, faint pianissimo, the discordant winds and questioning trumpet sounding forth from somewhere in the balcony.  At one point, the trumpeter cracked a note, yet it emerged as a poignant cry, like that in the famously touching playing of Taps at President Kennedy’s funeral.

After a pause to return the wind players to the stage, Ives’s questions gave way to outright mourning in Turnage’s piece. Passchendaele is constructed in an arch over the span of about 11-and-a-half minutes, with sustained, aggrieved block chords in the beginning, coming to a head mid-piece a the pace picks up and the chords start to crunch, only to recede into final inconclusive statements by solo trumpet and trombone. It’s a fairly powerful statement, here well executed by the combined orchestras.

After intermission, YMF Debut Orchestra’s newly appointed Music Director Yuga Cohler (and former student of Alan Gilbert), put the young musicians through an often loud, boisterous rendition of Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony, driving healthy young lungs too far, such that the winds and brass overpowered the strings in the first movement.  More impressive was the broadly paced third movement, with strings pouring forth with luscious, passionate unity and concentration.

In the fourth movement, the work’s subtitle, The Inextinguishable, rang especially true. The timpanist whacked away lustily in its pitched battles, making a wild racket, a triumphant affirmation of life even in a time of war.”

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