Classical; London Philharmonic Youth Orcehstra; Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Williams, Nicholas, The Independent (London, England)
Something of a post-war success story, the British youth-orchestra tradition survives despite straightened circumstances, doing what comes naturally: playing new music with a flair and dedication that can put full-time groups in the shade. Founded in 1922, the London Philharmonic Youth Orchestra draws on students from the country's music colleges and takes up Birtwistle, the parent ensemble's resident composer, with a dedication recalling the Leicestershire School Symphony Orchestra's work with Tippett in the 1960s. Youth and innovation should belong together. With this venture, players on the verge of professional life have the chance to tackle repertoire which will accompany them throughout their careers.
In their first concert of the year, at the QEH on Sunday, they rang the changes on the three Bs - Britten, Birtwistle and Beethoven - to make intriguing, if unlikely, partners in an evening of gripping musicianship conducted by Andrea Quinn. By way of prelude, the impressionism of Britten's Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes put the orchestral talent in perspective. The unadorned lines of "Dawn" showed up some hesitant articulation in the violins; a rogue player was apt to intrude an aura of brushed open string resonance in quiet passages. But the discipline of "Sunday Morning", "Moonlight" and the violent, Mahlerian "Storm" was impressive, with Quinn's fierce, extrovert direction, overbearing at first, clearly emerging as a force that was willing the players in the direction she wanted.
Come Gawain's Journey, Birtwistle's extraction of music from his second full-length opera, the band had found their stride. …