After a memorable Mahler Seven in 2008 it was just a matter of time before the CBSO Youth Orchestra tackled that other great late-romantic symphonist, Bruckner; and what a splendid choice his Fourth Symphony (the ‘Romantic’) was for these talented musicians.
Their wonderfully secure, sonorously effulgent performance (such resplendent brass choruses) was peppered with outstanding contributions from so many principals and sections, although I particularly noted horn, flute, oboe, clarinet, timpani – and wonderful violas in the slow movement.
But in addition to its panache and technical brilliance we also heard an intelligently structured account of this demanding work. CBSO principal guest conductor Edward Gardner guided his young players through the difficulties (and occasional ‘longueurs’) without striving for effect, allowing the music to unfold naturally in all its pomp and profundity.
This was an interpretation that quite belied the youth of its executants – mature, reflective, and awesomely accomplished.
Bartók’s quirky ‘Dance Suite’ presented a different set of challenges, immediacy of effect and rhythmic changes being the most obvious, which were undertaken with relish. Biting strings and a willingness to let things rip, notably in the third dance and controlled chaos of the finale, made for an exhilarating concert opener.
In total contrast were the ‘Seven Early Songs’ of Alban Berg. Despite soprano Sarah-Jane Brandon’s lustrously polished singing and clear diction this was a reading of care and caution, rather than passion.
There was little sense of emotional involvement (understandably perhaps, given the soppy adolescent hearts-and-flowers texts), while the complex details of Berg’s orchestration, so apparent on paper, were somewhat lost in a general orchestral haze.