Sir Mark Elder and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2014/15 Concert Package, SoundBite, Birmingham International Concert Season 2014/15 and Orchestral Music

Friday 7th August

Symphony Hall

National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain
Sir Mark Elder conductor

Programme includes:

Tansy Davies Regreening (new commision)
Mahler Symphony No9 81’

The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain isn’t just the largest symphony orchestra in the UK; it’s one of the most virtuosic, and every one of its concerts is a gala occasion, supercharged with energy and emotion. So imagine the sensation of hearing Mahler’s Ninth Symphony performed by these 163 exceptional performers, under the inspirational direction of Sir Mark Elder.

A luminous, mesmerising energy makes every concert by the world’s greatest orchestra of teenagers thrilling.

Re-greening, written by Tansy Davies especially for this brilliant orchestra, is performed without a conductor and completely from memory. With ritualistic focus the musician’s move, sing and play, visceral connections are made and musical currents crackle from player to player, awakening an ebullient Spring from her long Winter slumber. Following it, Mahler’s awesome, ‘affirmative love-song to life’ performed by 163 twenty-first century teenagers committing themselves totally to its turbulence and radiance will be a transforming experience.

Tansy Davies is one of the UK’s most inventive composers. Her music has a lucid, visual quality that engulfs the senses. Sometimes joyful and exuberant, sometimes brooding and mystical, it is always an exhilarating ride. It’s the perfect music then, for an orchestra of teenagers with bucket loads of spirit and a hunger to share their passion for music with everyone. Free from the usual stage confines, the musicians are in full focus for Re-greening. With exquisite playing they send reverberations straight from the heart to the ground below, summoning up new life.

Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 is consuming in its emotional intensity and these inspiring musicians pour themselves into it completely, driving through the tumult and anguish to reveal that hope will endure and life must and will go on. It is music that speaks directly to the soul. Life and all its joys and sorrows are encapsulated within it. There are moments of overwhelming grief but even at its bleakest a heart beats through the music determined to hold onto life and find joy.

It will be totally uplifting, totally inspiring, totally brilliant. Come and hear it. You will feel totally alive.

Oliver Condy, Editor of BBC Music Magazine, explains his recommendation:

The award-winning National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and brilliant conductor Sir Mark Elder make a formidable team.


Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

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…     “The performance was a triumph. This symphony is one of the greatest and deepest symphonic works of the twentieth century. It is enormously exacting, not just technically but also emotionally, and these young musicians accepted and rose to its manifold challenges with relish – I noted that even on the back desks of the violin sections evident physical commitment was shown throughout the evening. The long, remarkable first movement began promisingly, the strings phrasing beautifully in the opening pages; the rest of the orchestra took their cue from that. In all sections of the orchestra the playing was impressively secure and highly motivated. There were some 160 musicians involved and there were a few occasions, both here and in the other three movements, when despite the sensitivity of the players, one was aware that the orchestra is larger than one would normally hear in this music. Yet never did the large ensemble sound unwieldy and Elder and his players were most attentive to dynamics and other matters of detail. The performance was gripping and the exposed writing in the last few minutes of the movement were impressively negotiated. This is fantastically difficult music to play, let alone to play with such assurance, but these young musicians were never daunted by Mahler’s demands.

At the start of the Ländler second movement, taken at a steady, sturdy pace by Elder as on his CD, the second violins really dug into their music as, subsequently, did all the string sections. This was a robust and strongly projected account of the music in which Mahler’s sardonic humour was brought out very well. There was a genuine Mahler style in the orchestra’s playing.  The Rondo-Burleske was on fire from the start, the playing acute and the rhythms sharply articulated. This was music that benefitted hugely from the sheer commitment of these young musicians. But even amid the tumult there was a clearly evident attention to detail on the part of both conductor and orchestra. In the slower central section with its premonition of the Adagio to come the NYOGB’s principal trumpet had just the right silvery tone. In this section I felt Elder’s tempo was a bit too swift; the music wasn’t as nostalgically peaceful as it should be. When the Rondo material returned no prisoners were taken; the movement was driven to a scalding conclusion, the final pages being positively incendiary.

For the great concluding Adagio Elder dispensed with his baton, the better to mould the music expressively. This is a huge test for any orchestra but the opening paragraphs augured well; the string playing was outstandingly eloquent, the musicians manifestly giving their all.”     …

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian (for same programme but at Snape Maltings)

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Review by Colin Anderson, ClassicalSource (for same programme at Royal Albert Hall, Prom 31)

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Review by Jonathan McAloon, Telegraph (Prom 31)

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A London Symphony with the Hallé

Wednesday 14 March 2012 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121-780 3333

The Hallé
Sir Mark Elder conductor
Andrew Gourlay conductor*
Imogen Cooper piano

Strauss: Wind Serenade* 10′
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 18, K.456 29′
Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony 43′

Vaughan Williams didn’t just get his inspiration from skylarks and folksongs. He took traffic sounds, street-cries and the Westminster chimes, and turned them into A London Symphony – complete with cabbies, nightclubs and fog. It’s a gloriously colourful showcase for Sir Mark Elder and The Hallé – one of the great musical partnerships of recent years – and with Imogen Cooper bringing her unique poetry to Mozart’s lovely B-flat Piano Concerto, we’re looking forward to an evening of really magical music-making.

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

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…      ” There was no hiding that dimension of anguish in Elder’s superbly comprehensive account, whether in the paroxysms of the first movement – the Hallé brass wonderfully secure – or in the last slow fade of the finale. Even the moments of ebullience in the scherzo seemed to take on a sardonic edge.”     …

Review by John Gough, Birmingham Post:

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…     “This was a wonderfully responsive evocation of the capital, full of vitality. (I have never heard better playing of the quicksilver scherzo). Full, too, of poetic feeling and a tragic awareness of a world on the brink of catastrophe. Everything was here from ultra quiet string textures and distinguished solos, rising in the finale to brass playing ecstatic in its power and nobility.”       *****