CLASSICAL National Youth Orchestra

Nicholas Williams admires an energetic, polished conclusion to a Bruckner series
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The Independent Culture
Time and tide wait for no man, but in Bruckner symphonies time certainly passes more slowly than usual. As for tides, a flood of gathering energy in these works suggests inexorable forces harnessed by the composer in music that is itself a natural emanation. Beyond the stars, the crystal spheres sing eternal Bruckner Adagios.

Back on earth, the National Youth Orchestra played the Eighth Symphony at the Barbican on Thursday and found something of their own to say about this intense and complex masterpiece. In the past, their most challenging assignments have demanded and received both discipline and mature knowledge of style and substance; which is probably why the London Symphony Orchestra invited them to take over the final concert of their Bruckner-Mozart series. Coached by LSO principals at a recent residency and conducted by Jnos Furst, the young players could be safely entrusted not just to close the show, but to add the hallmark of their own polished enthusiasm.

In the event, there was a certain amount of getting down to business in the first movement, not helped by a platform introduction that destroyed the essential mood of silence prior to such an extensive journey. The opening musical statement lacked due sense of primal mystery in consequence, though the ensemble's concentration and desire to transcend the notes was plain to see. But Adrian Wilson's oboe playing soon became an inspiration, while the flutes remained leaders of the pack until that breathtaking moment where the music falls away, leaving one of their number incanting pale arpeggios above a queasy abyss.

Furst's sure, committed grasp of the music included a special rapport with the strings, though he was also sensitive to the needs of other orchestral departments. Strings, horn and clarinet wove deft patterns to begin the trio section of the Scherzo, though later they were a little too forward in their sense of climax. But everything came right in the slow movement, its main theme conceived without Mahlerian angst, and with the sudden harmonic swiftness at its end, plus three harps, a place where you held your breath as the music looked upwards. From here the musical tide flowed inexorably through to the thrilling flourish of percussion and the moment of reprise, the plain opening chord now set in a garland of orchestral fioritura. The finale was broadly paced - a risk that Furst might have lived to regret in the already generous measure of the Haas edition of this work, but which came off magnificently.

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