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Review: National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at Birmingham Symphony Hall

Maggie Cotton reviews National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at Birmingham Symphony Hall

Roberto Ruisi, 18, with The Suaret, a £1m Stradivarius

Looking at the 150 or so young musicians filling the stage, I wondered how many will have already caught the music bug destined to be a great passion throughout their life. There is always intrigue across generations when admitting any NYO connection (I joined 60 years ago).

With 14 resonator doors open, Stravinsky’s block-buster Petrushka filled our splendid hall with fair-ground excitement and colour. Conductor Edward Gardner inspired his musicians in every mode, from interwoven strands of Russian folk tales to many picturesque solos included hair-raising piano and breath-taking percussion; finally ending with terrifying faultless trumpet fanfares.

Twenty year old Prokofiev’s 1st Piano concerto continued the excitement with pianist Louis Schwizgebel wooing a willing (reduced) orchestra with his seemingly relaxed approach in this fiendish technical devilry. A teasing scampering piano seemingly effortless, enchanted all. A spectacular cadenza eventually brought smiles with an eventual silent ‘WOW!’ from everyone.

The three minute Harrison Birtwistle fanfare Sonance Severence 2000 blew our minds from almost silent bass pianissimos, to tutti cacophony.

Finally more orchestral challenges with Lutoslawski’s fascinating approachable Concerto for Orchestra. Gardener certainly highlighted contrasts both in dynamics and intriguing orchestrations. There were lovely solos from Birmingham leader Roberto Ruisi –a special treat to hear the loaned Stradivarius violin. The players’ enthusiasm for this dynamic music was in evidence. Hard work but gratifying.

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