Symphony Hall has long been a major stopping-off point on the itinerary of many touring youth orchestras, and on Tuesday it was the turn of the Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands to play in this great venue.
Flying visits can bring pitfalls, and a major one here was the oversight in not using the doors to the acoustic chambers. They remained firmly shut, causing a clattery sound in fully-scored passages (not least from over-emphatic percussion high on testosterone) which detracted from the general maturity of orchestral playing.
Refreshingly, this was a normalsized band (recent encounters with British youth orchestras have brought gargantuan forces, well though they have played), and it has many strengths. Strings are silky and athletic, woodwind are deft and communicative, and brass are sturdy and sonorous, enviably accident-free.
Things began badly, with one of the most poorly-conceived printed programmes it has ever been my misfortune to see, but once the performance itself started such irritations disappeared.
A taut, biting account of the vivid suite from Prokofiev's Love for Three Oranges was followed by Weber's First Clarinet Concerto. Soloist Arno Stoffelsma did his best for this vapid piece, his tone intimate and eloquent, with an assured command of the extended range Weber demands. The orchestra under the clear, encouraging beat of Jurjen Hempel provided a well-sprung accompaniment, rich in the Freischutz colourings of Weber's score.
Specially written as a showpiece for the orchestra, Martijn Padding's Kier plundered the honeypot of compositional gestures, and Ravel's miraculous orchestration of Mussorgsky's splendid Pictures at an Exhibition allowed plenty of opportunities to shine.
But perhaps best of all was the touching encore, the slow movement from Elgar's Serenade for Strings, delivered from the heart.