Youthful enthusiasm at the RFH

Venezuelans take their classical music seriously. Some quarter of a million of their children - the majority living in poverty - are involved in more than 250 orchestras for children and adults, receiving a high standard of musical education and participating in performances which give them hope and meaning. The flagship is the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, with over 200 members between the ages of 12 and 26. They are giving several concerts at the Royal Festival Hall: yesterday evening's programme was the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra and Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, the orchestra's Artistic Director.

No allowance need be made for the youth of the performers: the standard of playing is amazingly high - not only the individuals, but the orchestra's ability to play together without a trace of raggedness. It's a large orchestra - double the usual brass, twelve double-basses and many more strings than most orchestras - and this did lead to a certain thickening of the tone colour, particularly in the Tchaikovsky, though it added weight to the more sombre parts of the Bartok. The final movements of both works were taken at a cracking pace: in the case of the Tchaikovsky I'm not sure I would care to hear it played at this speed as a matter of normality, but the orchestra's precision and enthusiasm made it an exciting experience which never degenerated into a scramble.

After a well-deserved ovation the players (and the conductor) changed their formal jackets for brightly coloured ones and played two encores: a lively piece by Ginastera and the Mambo from West Side Story - both with sections standing and waving their instruments jazz-band style, and instruments thrown in the air (and caught, I hasten to add): a totally justified piece of showing off which received the loudest ovation I think I've ever heard at the RFH.

The standard of playing is a remarkable achievement, as is the entire Venezualan musical education programme: the UK, with its attitude that it's elitist to want to hear more than one movement of a symphony at a time (yes, you, Classic FM) could learn a lot.

Posted: Wed - April 15, 2009 at 10:18 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM