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Culture: Mature and rich tones; National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, Symphony Hall.

Byline: Christopher Morley

Whatever the ill-considered lurches of government policy regarding music education over the years, the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain has always kept the flame burning brightly, and the class of 2005 are worthy maintainers of the tradition.

Their New Year mini-tour ended in a packed Symphony Hall on Saturday, its probing acoustic revealing just how mature and rich is the tone these young people produce. String timbres were silky and secure, woodwinds were eloquently expressive and never pinched, brass commanded without stridency, and percussion added their telling punctuations with no hint of bombast - and how wonderful to hear four harps picking their way through the textures with such clarity.

Taut and exuberant under Keith Lockhart's suave, balletic direction, John Adams' Short Ride in a Fast Machine was over far too quickly for us to be able to appreciate these strengths, but what followed was simply overwhelming in its quality.

All concerned - orchestra, conductor and charmingly modest soloist Michael Chertock - played Gershwin's Piano Concerto for the masterpiece it is, no apologies necessary for its fusion of Broadway glitter with late romanticism.

Chertock combined cheeky subtleties of rhythm and attack with carefully weighted chording which would not have been out of place in Rachmaninov, and the orchestra sang gloriously and exultantly in this irresistible music.

Holst's Planets Suite impressed technically, though Lockhart could have drawn more grim menace out of Mars, and should have allowed the ladies of the City of Birmingham Choir to fade away into the ether at the end of a Neptune which ended with a bump.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 10, 2005
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