Classical Strung out on fresh faces

Strung out on fresh faces

The National Youth Orchestra’s 30-strong string ensemble played works by Handel, Corelli, Tchaikovsky and Britten in a programme yesterday that highlighted some wonderful string playing, but also exposed the limitations of some of the young performers.

There was much enthusiasm and conductor Fredrik Burstedt has infused the ensemble with the essential elements of musical discipline. This was especially apparent in the two baroque items, the thematic intricacies of Tchaikovsky’s rich romantic scoring strained the group’s capabilities.

Handel’s Concerto Grosso Op 6/1 opened the concert. Here the group’s untrammelled pure sound and well-balanced texture immediately impressed. Clear phrasing, rhythmic bounce, uniformity of attack and cadential pointing, highlighted the allegro movements. Beautifully spun-out legato lines in the adagio movement showcased the group’s commitment towards controlled expressivity.

Poignant moment
Similarly, in Corelli’s Fourth Concerto Grosso in D major they impressed with their attentive detailing of sequential layers and imitative inner voices. Their disciplined control over terraced dynamics showed an understanding for the style. John Reid Coulter’s undulating weaving around the “breathing” string’s homophonic texture (adagio) produced the programme’s most poignant moment.

Britten’s Sentimental Serenade from his Simple Symphony was played with an understanding for the music’s transparent neo-classical texture. The score’s ideas and passionate writing were communicated with fresh-faced enjoyment. Burstedt outlined each phrase with evocatively expressive gestures, his exuberance extending to the singing of some of the viola lines! Unfortunately, some of the ensemble’s ill-discipline marred the final cadence.

The National Youth Orchestra: Strings shows a great deal of promise and should forge ahead once they have come to terms with Tchaikovsky’s syncopated writing, tempo rubato and sweeping phrases. Their appearance on the Festival scene complements the National Youth Jazz Festival and, hopefully, this arrangement will continue into the future.

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