The Planets: CBSO Youth Orchestra

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Sunday 2nd November 2014 at 7.00pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

CBSO Youth Orchestra

Ben Gernon  conductor
John Mark Ainsley  tenor
CBSO Youth Chorus

Turnage: Passchendaele CBSO co-commission – UK premiere) 10′
Vaughan Williams: On Wenlock Edge 23′
Holst: The Planets (including Matthews Pluto) 54′
Listen on Spotify

Since 2004, the CBSO’s world-class Youth Orchestra has been pushing back the frontiers of what young musicians can achieve. Tonight, in a special 10th anniversary celebration, CBSO Youth Orchestra alumnus Ben Gernon conducts our superb young players in Holst’s spectacular The Planets, and unwraps a unique birthday present: a powerful new work, inspired by the year 1914, from one of Britain’s greatest living composers.

If you like this concert, you might also like:
MacMillan’s St Luke Passion, Thursday 4th December, 2014
Elgar’sEngima Variations, Wednesday 10th December & Saturday 13th December, 2014
Mahler’s First Symphony: CBSO Youth Orchestra, Sunday 22nd February, 2015

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “The premiere was Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Passchendaele, co-commissioned with help from long term CBSO supporters John Cole and Jennie Howe, and written in commemoration of the horrific events of the First World War.

Beginning with awe-inspiring trombone intonations, progressing through magical woodwind intimations and persuasive strings, it continues through a brass summons to a percussion-led outcry, all the while with a seamlessly arching line of anger and grief.

It was so moving to hear this Youth Orchestra paying homage to the doomed youth of a century ago, and moving, too, to witness the authoritative conducting of young Ben Gernon, himself a CBSOYO alumnus.

Fittingly, the programme’s other two composers had in fact served in the Great War. Vaughan Williams was represented by his Housman song-cycle On Wenlock Edge, its clattery orchestration sometimes blessedly subsiding into hushed tones which the musicians conveyed with the utmost sensitivity.

John Mark Ainsley was soloist, his particular kind of tenor timbre, questing and ruminative, well-suited to this period piece, ” …

*****

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Review by Roderic Dunnett, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard:

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…     “And what did one hear? Magnificent ensemble and dazzling precision, all units pulling together. Some enchanting, atmospheric violin solos from young leader Charlotte Moseley in the second movement, and then another whiff that sounded as beautifully wan as Rimsky-Korsakov (Scheherazade is a work one might indeed compare The Planets to, in dimension and concept). The two solo oboe passages wrapped round solo clarinet in the same (second) movement sounded like pure Delius – i.e. not just mightily well played, but acutely scrumptious and characterful..The whole thing, like so much Debussy or Roussel, is a masterclass in orchestration: who would have noticed that just one trumpet (Matthew Frost, I think) plays at the start of ‘Jupiter’: so utterly assured, the effect, even amid quite thick textures, is extraordinary.

 Gernon’s success was keeping what might have been a rather bawdy, rumbustious romp so elegantly under control. As a result, detail spoke loud. There was no mush. The violin sound was precise, lucid, focused – the seconds as well as the top line, some expressive moments in the violas, and particularly some hugely rewarding, sonorous sounds from double basses and cellos, playing separately or as one. Pure magic and growing mystery from harps, singly or paired (as in ‘Saturn’), and Jing Yi Goh’s immensely attentive celesta (by the time we reached ‘Neptune’, it was starting to sound like Schreker’s Der Ferne Klang, which dates from time that Holst first conceived the war-coincident work).”     …

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Review by Katherine Dixson, BachTrack:

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…     “It is in fact one of the trademarks of this orchestra that they’re up for the challenge of new commissions, and they tackled Passchendaele with a maturity beyond their years. There was as much assurance in the full, multi-textured, angry orchestral sound as there was in the solo and ensemble fanfares and more reflective moments. Within the space of ten minutes, plaintive melodies on trombones were answered by orchestra; clashing percussion gave way to more melodic strings; a sinking, labouring feeling was punctuated with horns and gongs, shifts in the time signature creating a sense of tension and unease; outbursts gradually subsided and led back through the wind section to a poignant trumpet solo. A sense of calm rather than peace, to which the audience responded with thoughtful rather than ecstatic applause.     […]

[…]    After the interval Gernon and the orchestra seemed much more at home with The Planets, enjoying the build-up from a menacing opening into an explosive frenzy in their depiction of Mars, the Bringer of War. Hard to believe that Holst had already started writing this movement before hostilities started in 1914.

The contrasts between the more energetic and slower movements were skilfully handled, as were the expressive dynamics and contributions from solo violin, cello, woodwind and lively percussion team. The CBSO Youth Chorus, with a 20-year history, shone as ethereal voices offstage, breathing an extra dimension into the already captivating atmosphere of Neptune, the Mystic, like wind. With the inclusion of Colin Matthews’ additional movement Pluto, the Renewer, the voices were employed again to bring the music back to Holst’s own final chord.  An effective end to a highly entertaining birthday party.”

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