Hall/Mark Elder, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

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The Independent Culture

Does the Hall just put on glamorous nights of expensive music-drama? Despite its recent total immersion in Wagner's Twilight of the Gods, the answer is, emphatically, no. It's just that its other activities often pass unnoticed. A team of Hall players and staff is taking part in the Great Manchester Run to raise funds for the Charles Hall Foundation. In July, the original Manchester band joins up with the Mercury Prize-winning Elbow for two sold-out gigs.

But most encouragingly, during one of its popular Opus One concerts, Sir Mark Elder and the Duchess of Kent handed out nine Future Champion awards to young local participants in the Future Talent scheme. It was rewarding to see these promising young instrumentalists and vocalists highlighted for their achievement and applauded not just by the audience, but by all the champions in the Hall.

Scattered around the Bridgewater Hall were bright clusters of children who have been working in their schools with Hall players. One group is composing its own music for A Midsummer Night's Dream and those youngsters couldn't fail to have been inspired by the Hall's mercurial reading of Mendelssohn's overture to the play, written when he himself was only 17. Gossamer fairies, rude mechanicals and a braying Bottom all made their appearances on cue in a delightfully transparent performance.

Howard Shelley was the soloist in Beethoven's Second Piano Concerto and in his combination of sweet-toned delicacy at the end of the slow movement, and drive and drama in the first movement cadenza, he was a persuasive and compelling advocate.

"Throwing children alive into a boiling vat of great music does them no harm at all," claimed Dame Liz Forgan in her recent address at the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards. Nevertheless, Brahms's Second Symphony is not the work I'd have chosen for this particular audience, despite its jubilant ending, Elder's spontaneous interpretation and the orchestra's accomplished playing. My boiling vat would have thrown up John Adams's Short Ride in a Fast Machine or Mark-Anthony Turnage's Three Screaming Popes anything to reassure those young performers and concert-goers of tomorrow that classical music doesn't have to be conservative, but is thrilling, visceral and of today.