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Review: National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, Snape Proms, August 3

PUBLISHED: 16:31 10 August 2017 | UPDATED: 16:31 10 August 2017

Composer Thomas Ades conducts the National Yoputh Orchestra as part of The Snape Proms. Photo:Malcolm Watson

Composer Thomas Ades conducts the National Yoputh Orchestra as part of The Snape Proms. Photo:Malcolm Watson

Archant

Youth was indeed the name of the game in this exhilarating concert - not just the immensely talented players but two of the compositions were written by composers around the age of thirty. In chronological terms conductor and composer Thomas Ades might no longer quite fit the youth category but his energy and drive were the foundation of the evening’s success.

Francisco Coll’s ‘Mural’ from 2013-15 might be considered a five movement symphony and it is an assured and inventive composition for someone only just into his thirties. His grasp of large scale form and control of dynamic range are very evident and if the thematic ideas are not particularly striking there is already a good deal of power and authority in the writing with some of the fortissimos rivalling Mahler and Strauss.

Ades’ own ‘Polaris’ of 2010 begins with an arresting line on the piano over quiet violin pizzicatos. These melodic ripples spread through the orchestra until, over a shimmering orchestral surface, trumpets and other strategically positioned brass groups announce a new figure. Tumultuous sounds and fury ensue but the piece ends quietly with a sense of the infinite dimensions of the universe. In both works Ades gave exemplary control and direction and the players responded with playing of exceptional commitment and intense concentration.

Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’ is a score of brilliant invention and orchestral fireworks but it cannot be approached with caution. Right from the agonised bassoon opening (superb) every member of the orchestra gave all they had and the performance soared. The punching discords of the dance of the adolescents were like artillery and the tension simply bristled. All the solos from alto flute through bass clarinet to trumpet and horn were not just crisp and correct but, more importantly, glowed with colour and character. The second part had moments of seductive beauty but the build-up of the sacrificial dance to its denouement was absolutely unrelenting with Ades unleashing and harnessing the combined power of one hundred and sixty of our best young musicians. It was an aural and visual tour-de-force of the highest order.

Gareth Jones

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