So the long school summer holidays have begun, but for young musicians there’s no risk of boredom (any child who’s bored is boring in themselves) setting in – at least for the moment, as youngsters flock to Birmingham in preparation for a variety of events.
This Sunday evening the crack CBSO Youth Orchestra Academy performs a programme of what has been described as “the dark heart of 20th-century music” in Birmingham Town Hall (7pm). The evening begins with Shostakovich’s dangerously satirical Symphony no.9, written at speed immediately after the Soviet Union’s triumph at the end of World War II, continues with Michael Petrov as soloist in the Cello Concerto by Samuel Barber (a composer treading carefully in those days because of his homosexuality), and ends with Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements.
Written during World War II, this is a strident, biting work, but has at its centre a toying, gentle movement with music which was originally intended to accompany a film about St Bernadette of Lourdes.
Michael Seal, associate conductor of the CBSO, is on the podium for the concert, and all week he has been tweeting enthusiastically about the progress of rehearsals, and about the potential of the aspiring young conductors he is coaching along the way.
Even grittier Stravinsky is on offer at Symphony Hall on August 4, when the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain performs the composer’s notorious Rite of Spring. The work caused a riot when it was premiered in Paris by Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1913, but has now become a repertoire classic, though still tricky to negotiate.
Thomas Ades conducts, with Mural, a new work by Francisco Coll, described as “a grotesque symphony in which Dionysus meets Apollo”, and Ades’ own Polaris, subtitled “A Voyahe for Orchestra”, its interstellar landscape drawing inspiration from the North Star, completing the programme (7.30pm). The concert will be repeated at the BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall next evening, broadcast live, and relayed on BBC4 on August 6.
An even younger, but still awesomely professional-sounding orchestral organisation makes a welcome return to Birmingham on August 6, when the National Children’s Orchestras under-12 Orchestra performs in the Town Hall (3.30pm), a Birmingham debut for this age-tranche of youngsters.
Their programme is a glittering one, beginning with Mars from Holst’s Planets Suite, continuing with both Suites from Bizet’s Carmen, Sibelius’ epic Finlandia, and the stirring Montagues and Capulets from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, before ending with Marquez’ Conga del Fuego Nuevo. Natalia Luis-Bassa conducts.
A strong Birmingham connection has recently been established between the city and the National Children’s Orchestras, with the appointment of Catherine Arlidge MBE as the NCO’s Artistic Director.
Catherine, who will continue to play as a member of the second violins within the CBSO, is already well-loved for the part she plays in organising the CBSO’s Notelets concerts for young people, and for her formation of the mini-ensemble Stringcredibles, carrying out educational outreach work.
Finally, towards the end of the school summer holidays, the National Youth Boys’ Choir and National Youth Girls’ Choir perform at Birmingham Town Hall on Sunday, August 27 (4pm), with a programme largely made up of gospel music and spirituals.
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