Fine playing breaks new ground

National Youth Orchestra, Snape Proms, August 21stA veritable throng of young players - seemingly enough to fill a small city - (157 including 12 double basses and 5 harps) crowded onto an extended stage at Snape Maltings on Thursday evening for a concert centred on America.

National Youth Orchestra, Snape Proms, August 21st

A veritable throng of young players - seemingly enough to fill a small city - (157 including 12 double basses and 5 harps) crowded onto an extended stage at Snape Maltings on Thursday evening for a concert centred on America. Edgard Varese wrote his Ameriques when he was preoccupied with new sounds, especially electronic ones, and in producing a music based more on scientific principles and acoustic exploration rather than overlaid with the excesses of late Romanticism.

The result is certainly novel and from the opening flute line (reminiscent of Debussy's Prelude a l'apres-midi and played with great poise) to the noisy ending conductor Antonio Pappano and the orchestra kept alive the sense of new territory being inhabited.

Rachmaninoff's final piano concerto was completed in America also and just five years after the Varese but these ostensibly contemporary works have quite different musical conceptions. Even if the fourth concerto lacks the memorable tunes of the second and third it is still firmly set in late romantic country and requires pianistic and interpretative skills of the highest order. Although playing alongside a large concerto orchestra, Boris Berezovsky produced a strong, authoritative sound when necessary, shone in the more brilliant passages and was never in danger of being drowned out. His encore performance of Medtner's 'Campanile' was thrilling and rapturously received.


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Copland's Third Symphony, one of the most quintessentially American works by this most American of composers begins with wide, open-air E major chords, the strings secure in their intonation as the work unfolded. The woodwind players distinguished themselves in the breezy second movement which built to an almost overpowering level of sound. The string were again precise and warm in the exposed lines of the slow movement and then brass and percussion had their moment of glory in Fanfare for the Common Man. Fine playing and conducting from all involved.

Gareth Jones

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