Music review: Colburn Orchestra, Usher Hall

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A sensational performance of a fascinating programme made for an unforgettable festival debut from the Los Angeles-based Colburn Orchestra.

Colburn Orchestra, Usher Hall (*****)

Well-drilled by conductor Stéphane Denève, these young players showed off their considerable talents in Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Nyx. At the heart of this impressionistic soundworld was a brilliant string sound, which together with the celeste, brass and percussion, ebbed around the virtuosic clarinet passages.

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In Barber’s Violin Concerto there was precision and focus in spades as Denève encouraged a lively and perfectly balanced dialogue between the orchestra and soloist Simone Porter, a student at the Colburn conservatoire. The strings were lush and the woodwind solos crisp and full of character, echoing Porter’s beautiful tonal warmth and lyricism. And the orchestra never dropped a note or missed a beat in the breathtaking non-stop finale.

Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances is one of the last things he wrote, and the Colburn Orchestra made this action-packed work their own. There was much to enjoy from the strings bouncing in their seats as they accented the off-beat Slavic rhythms, to the waltzing trumpets in the enigmatic slow movement and the spectrum of thrilling dynamics that maintained momentum to the last chord.