Review: Suffolk Youth Orchestra, Snape Proms, August 5

Suffolk Youth Orchestra

Suffolk Youth Orchestra - Credit: Archant

The Suffolk Youth Orchestra has been an established feature of the Snape Proms for some years and on Tuesday they again showed their range and quality in a fine concert under their longstanding conductor Philip Shaw.

The first half contained particularly attractive and engaging music, Malcolm Arnold’s Four Cornish Dances are fun to play and give all sections of the orchestra a chance to shine. The numerous strings dug deep into their instruments in the opening dance and the brass played with character and sensitivity in the third.

Tchaikovsky’s warm tribute to Florence, his Capriccio Italien, contains some of his most beguiling melodies and the opening trumpet fanfare was perfectly executed. The beginning of the central section was marred by poor wind intonation but the final tarantella, taken at quite a speed, had much nimble playing and the conductor’s firm control saw the work safely through to a rousing conclusion.

Arturo Marquez’s Danzon No 2 is another favourite with youth orchestras, the composer’s tribute to Mexican folk music, being full of energy and colour. The rhythmic lifting of the muted brass instruments plus periods when the players stood to play contributed to the heady atmosphere at the end of the first half.

The second half occupied rather different territory. Vaughan Williams’ London Symphony was completed in 1914 and this performance came just one day after the commemorations for the start of World War 1. V-W’s mode of expression, certainly in his earlier symphonies tended to be weighty and it is not the easiest work for younger players to respond to. In fact they did extremely well, perfectly recreating the misty dawn of a London day in the opening bars and the bustling energy of the working city in the main Allegro. The rather sombre slow movement came across as just right for the moment and it was impossible not to be reminded of the tragedies that were unfolding a century ago. The return of the Westminster Chimes on the harp and the perfectly controlled final diminuendo were moments of genuine artistic quality and made a deep impression.

It is all too easy to get the impression that music education is under constant siege but this uplifting evening shows that, in this corner of England at least, there is the will and the resources to enable pupils to reach the highest standards. Long may it continue.

Gareth Jones

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