National Youth Orchestra fires up Barbican and January’s best classical concerts

Barbican National Youth Orchestra - Mark Allan

Barbican National Youth Orchestra – Mark Allan

National Youth Orchestra/Bloch, Barbican ★★★★★

It wasn’t just the waltz waltz The Blue Danube that made it feel like a New Year’s concert: everything about this Barbican look at the start of the National Youth Orchestra’s four-city tour was a celebration. The festive season didn’t mean much for these extraordinarily talented youngsters, as delivering NYO’s most serious program in years would require a busy and hardworking vacation.

Three major scores took place under the banner of “Odyssey” and the concert kicked off with Britten’s moody Four Sea Interludes by Peter Grimes. In Bleak Dawn, brass was recorded powerfully, one advantage of NYO’s putting together as many actors as possible is definitely a larger brass section than an opera house pit can accommodate. If this isn’t the most precise NYO play ever, the musicians have certainly reciprocated to conductor Alexandre Bloch, making a welcome return to the hall where he won the Donatella Flick LSO Conducting Competition a little over a decade ago. The Final Storm brought out the best in everyone.

Anna Clyne’s Rift, a symphonic ballet written in 2016, is in part a meditation on the state of our planet. It has three parts, Dust, Water and Space, and although the plot is a bit melancholy, it represents a bittersweet journey towards hope. Clyne has always had a knack for exciting textures and memorable but never obvious melodies.

The opening is particularly striking, with the violas lamenting over the oscillating hum of Tibetan bowls. Other dramas soon pick up on the theme, and the music quickly becomes more complex without losing its emotional immediacy. The virtuoso closing experience of the score will definitely stay with these young musicians for a long time. New music is indeed an important part of NYO’s mission, and a suitable place has been found by NYO Associates’ eleven-strong group for a brief presentation of their music – via a curtain lifter into the second half.

Before it got to Johann Strauss’ encore, Richard Strauss’ strong-toned poem There was also the sprach Zarathustra, its massive opening going from suspense to brilliant brilliance. Here Bloch proved to be a magician by unraveling the secrets and shaping a tense performance filled with vivid detail. Leader Isabell Karlsson’s violin solos were agile, but everyone contributed to a highly successful performance of a work filled with idealistic endeavors – and what could be better for a youth orchestra? JA

Other dates for NYO’s Odyssey tour:

Elias String Quartet/Osborne, Wigmore Hall ★★★★☆

Wigmore Hall - Ben Ealovega

Wigmore Hall – Ben Ealovega

A sign that the New Year has truly begun is when the concerts are starting to shake off their seasonal cheer, and on their way back to Wigmore Hall, the Elias String Quartet’s minds are occupied by nothing but serious programming. In a brilliantly focused concert, Beethoven was surrounded by two great 20th-century Russian composers, Stravinsky and Shostakovich, and there was creative tension stemming from their anti- and pro-Beethoven positions.

The highlight of the program was Beethoven’s Number 10 Quartet in E flat, nicknamed the Harp for its pizzicato (snapping) effects that permeated the first movement. Both the E-flat tonality and the year of composition, 1809, connect it to Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, but it does not have the same power as that famous work and instead shows Beethoven, even in his middle period, anticipating the musical obstacles he would soon overcome.

Successful performances of this work depend on the interpretive harmony of its actors, where Elias created a sense of quiet anticipation in the stillness of the opening of the first chapter before providing swelling warmth. It was an intense, sustained outburst balanced by the chant-like slow motion, the energy unleashed in the scherzo, and an almost hilarious finale.

Tiny masterpieces, often overlooked for their brevity, including Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for String Quartet, made a pleasant opening to the night. Again, the context of these 1914 miniatures, which come after Stravinsky’s three most famous ballets (The Firebird, Petrushka, and The Rite of Spring), explains the public impact of drones of the first movement and some harsh modernist aspects, but they also show new directions. . Elias produced a magnificently concentrated sound in the somber murmurs of the final piece – like a Russian Orthodox hymn.

Elias was joined after the hiatus by eminent pianist Steven Osborne for Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet in G minor. The context tells us less about this 1940 note: Despite the war, it sounds like abstract music – although you can never be quite sure of Shostakovich – and it’s full of Beethovenian endeavors. The piano anchors this piece, where it literally put everything in motion from the start, and Osborne was at the center of this imposing performance.

However, some of the most interesting textures include strings only, particularly in the disembodied fugue of the second movement and the sharp, burning dialogues of the fourth movement—first between violin and cello, then violin and viola. But the piano and strings combined in the galloping scherzo and finale, creating a brilliantly fragile effect. JA

Other details of the season:

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