National Youth Orchestra Of Wales by Christopher Morley
Thanks to the splendidly-planned and executed CCTV coverage in Hereford Cathedral during this year's Three Choirs Festival we were able to share in Carlo Rizzi's beatific smile and gentle baton-clap on the palm of his hand as this stunning account of Mahler's Fifth Symphony from the National Youth Orchestra of Wales came to an end.
Now an elder statesman of music in Wales, and nowadays sporting an avuncularly Verdian beard, the Italian maestro, not generally renowned as a Mahler conductor, drew from his well-trained young charges a reading which was high in adrenaline, breathtakingly accomplished in technique, and movingly committed in terms of emotional content. To meet such music in one's youth must be a life-changing moment for teenagers.
String tone was rich and supply phrased, woodwind made such telling contributions (and for once one could see and hear the point of Mahler's theatrical "Schalltrichter auf!" demands, when the instruments are raised in order to convey the sound directly to the audience), and to hear the famous Adagietto pulsating with no fewer than four harps -- well, this is a Welsh band, after all -- was really very special; and grazie, Carlo Rizzi, for leading immediately into the finale.
I could find no names in the programme-book, but the principal horn was outstanding in her many solos, matched by a fearless principal trumpet who launched the whole massive journey and topped the glorious concluding chorale.
Nor could I find the name of the wonderfully assured male alto singing the important solo during Bernstein's Chichester Psalms, in which the NYOWales was joined by the remarkable National Youth Choir of Wales, singing, of course, in the specified Hebrew.
This was a blazingly warm presentation, perhaps slightly underpowered from voices which have yet fully to mature, and which I know brought tears to some eyes.
There are no woodwinds in the Chichester Psalms, but those players had their moment, entertaining us on the green with Richard Strauss' Wind Serenade as we shuffled into the welcoming cathedral.