But the most heartening exhibition of the evening was Gawain's Journey. Harrison Birtwistle's orchestral synthesis of his opera Gawain threw down a mighty challenge for the NYO. They took it up with fearless relish for the wizardry of the orchestration, the convulsive energy, the graphic portraiture of pounding hooves, and the clash of cold steel. The Ravel orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures was a pastel by comparison. Reeds were a little tired, the harmonic series was playing tricks on the first horn. Still, there's something about making that descent into the 'Catacombs' and then re-emerging into the blazing light of 'The Great Gate of Kiev' when you've got seven trombones, four tubas, six trumpets and 10 horns. Top that.