CBSO Youth Orchestra Academy review

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE IS KNOCKED OUT BY THE PROWESS OF THE CBSO YOUTH ORCHESTRA ACADEMY UNDER MICHAEL SEAL

CBSO YOUTH ORCHESTRA ACADEMY

Birmingham Town Hall ★★★★★

A great start to the concert with a devilishly fine performance of the overture to Weber's opera Der Freischutz. The thumbnail pictures of the opera's characters, from satanic Samiel to winsome heroine Agathe, are skilfully woven into the musical fabric making for an exciting ten minutes. The players captured the rapid changes of mood really well – the horn section as the embodiment of rustic values, the piping vernal woodwind and unnerving shivering strings.

There are also plenty of those slippery diminished seventh chords in Dvoƙák's Symphony No.7 where a composer loved for his sunny and ingratiating Bohemian melodies shows a darker side. Under the CBSO's associate conductor Michael Seal this was a performance which scrupulously maintained the tension between the symphony's brooding crepuscular D minor tonality and the shafts of sunlight breaking through. Right until the concluding moments we're not sure which will win out, and the final modulation – brass blazing magnificently – was positively uplifting. Excellent contributions from all sections with the two clarinets catching my ear with mellifluously delightful playing.

In the second movement of Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No.1, after the hustle and bustle of the first, the composer gives us the sort of pensive, inwardly focused music so familiar from his string quartets. The young soloist Jamal Aliyev excelled here, warm-toned and fashioning long plangent lines of sound and then switching gears adroitly for the extrovert, challengingly angry extended cadenza. Sturdy support from the orchestra and especially by the first horn – absolutely fearless playing in a demanding part.

Norman Stinchcombe

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