CBSO YOUTH ORCHESTRA

CBSO YOUTH ORCHESTRA AT SYMPHONY HALL *****

CHRISTOPHER MORLEY MARVELS AT THESE YOUNGSTERS TACKLING TWO WORLD WAR II SYMPHONIES

It was a brilliant idea to pair two symphonies closely associated with World War II, one (Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem) composed just before the outbreak, the other (Shostakovich Seven) written while the composer was on fire-watching duties during the siege of Leningrad.
And it was poignant to hear them performed by young people whose predecessors would have been caught up in that conflict, and in the Great War prior to that; and particularly poignant that this concert should have been given on the centenary of the death in action of Wilfred Owen, the poet who meant so much to Britten.
After a week of intensive training from members of the parent orchestra, the CBSO Youth Orchestra proudly set out its stall under the remarkable conducting of Michael Seal, delivering these highly emotional scores with a commendable maturity of control, depth of tone (even in the quietest passages), and with tremendous sense of ensemble. Unisons from the strings were impeccable, eye-contact across the vast percussion section obviated any lapses in synchronisation, chording in the brass was awesome, and woodwind wove their solos with eloquence and personality.
Highlights in the Britten were the roaring horns in the Dies Irae and the authoritative way Seal marshalled that movement's disintegration. The famous totalitarian onslaught in the Shostakovich was underpinned by an indefatigable snare-drummer, its inexorable crescendo (like a scary Bolero meeting The Merry Widow) building huge power, and in later movements the shaping of violin accompaniments under wind solos was deliciously persuasive.
Look down the list of players and you will rejoice at the range of nationalities represented here. And we even saw both styles of bow-holding in the double-bass section, The CBSOYO is a true melting-pot of communal excellence.

Christopher Morley

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