Growing old gracefully; MUSIC

LPYO / Andrea Quinn QEH, London
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The Independent Culture
The London Philharmonic Youth Orchestra was founded three years ago to give young players from our music colleges the chance to gain orchestral experience prior to becoming fully fledged professionals. Its schedules include sectional tuition from members of the senior orchestra, and players are also given advice on all aspects of being an orchestral musician. The most recent fruits of this process were to be heard at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (or RFH2, as we must now learn to call it) on Sunday evening when the orchestra performed an exceptionally wide-ranging programme under its music director Andrea Quinn.

Each piece demanded awareness of a totally different stylistic tradition, and it was a tribute to both the conductor's and the orchestra's flexibility of response and breadth of sympathy that the programme was performed with conviction and technical security.

The most rarefied demands were made by Delius's The Walk to the Paradise Garden, music whose subtleties of mind and sense can sometimes escape even the most experienced orchestra. The harmonic ebbing and flowing contained within string-writing that can seem exasperatingly uneventful to the player was made to live most sensitively by Miss Quinn, and the poignant wind solos that float above and within were touchingly characterised. If full incandescence was not quite achieved in the final ecstatic climax, this was still a freshly imagined performance.

It would be hard to imagine a greater contrast than that provided by the late Witold Lutoslawski's Cello Concerto; but here, too, the young players saw to the heart of the music, and brought coruscating life to its dramatic processes. Lutoslawski's rethinking of the element of contest typical of traditional concerto forms gives the soloist splendid opportunities, and Raphael Wallfisch was both leading actor and ensemble player in the concerto's vivid drama, bringing great technical command and histrionic flair to his role. The orchestra must be no less bound up in the dramatic dialectic, and the more violent exchanges at the centre of the concerto generated considerable electricity.

It was left to Brahms's Second Symphony to draw on more traditional skills, and the required blend of wind, brass and string sonorities, which must also place foreground and background elements in precisely gauged relief, was for the most part tellingly achieved. Quinn's control of Brahms's majestic structures enabled an unbroken line to be drawn from first to last; and when the most exuberant finale that Brahms ever wrote focuses in on the final arrival and celebration of D major, the release of accumulated tension was exhilarating to hear.

It had been a performance in which local events, whether bewitching lyric inspirations or dramatic junctures in development, had been characterised with lively immediacy, but had also benefited from their place in the overall span. Detail was not always immaculate, and the two "scherzando" interludes in the third movement, for instance, lacked clarity, but the vitality and solidity of the interpretation as a whole were most persuasive.

Anthony Payne

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