Music review: YOLA National with Big Noise Raploch, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

With grand finale bows and the words ‘I think we’ve finished’ from conductor Gustavo Dudamel, it seemed like the YOLA National with Big Noise Raploch concert was, at 35 minutes, setting the record for the shortest ever Edinburgh International Festival performance.

YOLA National with Big Noise Raploch, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

YOLA National with Big Noise Raploch, Usher Hall ****

But Sunday afternoon’s Usher Hall audience was having none of it and – very politely – persuaded Dudamel to extend what was essentially an open rehearsal involving the young players of the USA and Scotland coming together through their passion for making music and a shared back story originating from impoverished communities.

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A tokenistic opening, the selection of traditional tunes labelled ‘A Scottish Celebration’, did them no favours, apart from setting the limelight on two impressive solo wind players on oboe and clarinet. The more sophisticated orchestrations of Bizet and Brahms, however, seemed to awaken a new collective confidence. In excerpts from Carmen and Hungarian Dance No 5 this co-joining of international young musicians had a stylish spark, further coloured by Dudamel’s communicative rehearsal technique, which exploits stories, visual imagery, technical insights and, most telling of all, singing.

CAROL MAIN