Classical review: Prom 13, Bell, National Youth Orchestra of the USA, Valery Gergiev, Royal Albert Hall, London
Monday 22 July 2013
One of the things the Proms can do is showcase youth orchestras, and Prom 13 was given over to the newly-formed National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America, all aged between 16 and 19.
With Valery Gergiev at the helm they launched into a new work written for them by the young American composer Sean Shepherd. “Magiya” was apparently intended to convey a Russian sense of magic, and, though it didn’t do that, it did allow the young players – all got up like bandsmen in black jackets and scarlet trousers – to show their breezy attack and command of texture. And it woke the place up.
Then on came Joshua Bell to play Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major, 46-going-on-16 and looking like their big brother. These days he’s quite the elder statesman with his conducting and his music directorship of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, but when he sent his opening phrase out into the ether it was clear he’d lost none of his fabulous sound. With the orchestra sensitively shadowing him, he delivered all the first movement’s big moments – including the double-stopped glissandi and the dog-whistle pianissimi of the cadenza – with easy aplomb; his muted account of the Canzonetta made it sound like the perfumed love-letter it originally was (from the composer to an adored young male violinist). And Bell’s encore was a nice touch: not the usual piece of solo Bach, but more Tchaikovsky in which the kids could shine as well as him.
Thus far we had needed to make no allowances for the youth and inexperience of the orchestra, but the final work, Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony, would be a real test as it is for seasoned orchestras. It’s not just a matter of playing the notes: written under extreme stress, it’s one of this composer’s most allusive and inward works, and its premiere was surrounded with a furious debate about its meaning in which Shostakovich himself took part. Was it optimistic or pessimistic? Was the second movement a sardonic portrait of Stalin? There was certainly no doubt about the import of the musical anagrams which pervade its third movement, because there the composer was baring both his soul and the identity of his (temporary) beloved. Daunting?
Not for this lot. No praise too high for the flute and horn soloists, or for the percussion and massed strings: a completely professional performance. Does this say something about music education in America?
TVJamie's Sugar Rush reveal's campaigning chef's new foe
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible
- 2 President Obama leaves touching comment on Humans of New York photo from Iran
- 3 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 4 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 5 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
The Gamechangers trailer: Daniel Radcliffe stars in GTA movie
Star Wars: New action dolls launched on Force Friday ahead of The Force Awakens release
Ricki And The Flash, film review: Meryl Streep's rock'n'roll creation steals the show
Joan Aiken: Today's Google Doodle celebrates life of British fantasy novelist
Photographer captures the beauty and intensity of his girlfriend giving birth at home
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Refugees welcome: More than 250,000 sign Independent petition calling for Britain to 'take its fair share'