CBSO Youth Orchestra review



CBSO Youth Orchestra at Symphony Hall ****
Yes, Aaron Copland is what some people regard as a composer of American nationalism and yes, his huge output is represented in UK concert halls by only a handful of works; but what should have been a hugely significant performance (and a rare one in Birmingham) of his Third Symphony was partially eclipsed by what had gone before.
Anna Clyne's short scherzo-like tone-poem This Midnight Hour offered a glittering cornucopia of aural delights – chuntering basses, haunted woodwind, transparent strings – and picaresque, almost cartoonish energy which the CBSO Youth Orchestra and Cristian Măcelaru, a conductor of surgical precision and neatness, dispatched with sensational verve and accuracy.
As a powerhouse starter, albeit peppered with teasing melodic fragments, it naturally paved the way for Szymanowski's Violin Concerto No. 1. Here, though, the melodies are fully spun out and Szymanowski's exotically lush, high-romantic orchestration is given space to expand and develop.
In this reading it expanded rather too well at times, often vying with the understated virtuosity of soloist Tasmin Little to achieve a balanced realisation of the concerto's expressive intensity. But much of it was persuasively articulated, particularly by Little's hauntingly beautiful tone and her understanding of his tortured lyricism, while Măcelaru's management of the score's complexities (so many hints of Strauss and Janacek) left nothing to chance.
The symphony also displayed many felicitous touches, although by this time one could sense these young stalwarts were running out of steam. Even so, they managed to whip the scherzo into an almost rabid romp, which made it for me the high-spot of the entire piece. There should have been others but, as so often, Copland's fixation on heritage, cowboy culture and the old homestead tends to leave little room for purely musical delights.
David Hart

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