Classical review: Edinburgh Youth Orchestra, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Youth Orchestra were fearless in their approach to a complex and thrilling piece

Edinburgh Youth Orchestra were fearless in their approach to a complex and thrilling piece

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After their triumphant 50th anniversary concert last year, the EYO raised the bar higher still with this ambitious all-Russian programme.

Edinburgh Youth Orchestra - Usher Hall, Edinburgh

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Stravinsky’s seminal work, The Rite of Spring, in terms of scale alone, is the Mt Everest of contemporary repertoire: with vastly augmented brass and woodwind sections there were over 120 young musicians onstage.

Guided by conductor Garry Walker, the players were fearless in their approach to this complex and thrilling piece which pushes every musical boundary. After a hesitant start, the orchestra grew in confidence with the boisterous woodwind and sniggering brass contributing to a gutsy, muscular sound, especially when firing on all cylinders.

As in Borodin’s expansive In the Steppes of Central Asia which opened the concert, there was the odd rhythmic wobble and blurring of intricate detail in some of the trickier and more exposed sections. However, further performances should iron out these minor niggles as the pieces have a chance to bed in.

The EYO have a special rapport with violinist Jack Liebeck, who substituted at the last minute for an indisposed Nicola Benedetti last year, and this was further strengthened in this immaculate performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. The soloist/orchestral balance was spot on, allowing plenty of space for Liebeck to breathe; his gorgeous mellow tones beautifully enhanced and supported by the strings, ably led by Katie Foster. There is often a temptation to rush this war-horse, especially the last movement, but Walker wisely resisted, bringing a compelling freshness to this rousing classic.

Seen on 11.04.14

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