If there is to be a top ten of must-listen to Proms this season, the National Youth Orchestra of the USA will be on it (and at the time of writing, vying for top slot with this years Rite). Their appearance last night at the Proms – their first at the end of the orchestra’s inaugural concert – was breathtaking.
Magiya – the concert opener and co-commission between Carnegie Hall and the BBC (above) – showcased the band’s glittery armoury in this dazzling musical display, giving us a hint technically of what was in store for the second half.
Whilst the necessary symbiotic relationship between orchestra and soloist Joshua Bell didn’t quite get established until the second movement of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, by the third the strings had proved their mettle in some stunningly articulated tutti sections (listen out for the scurrying first violins in the opening of the third movement for an illustration). On the whole, the woodwind seemed a little distant in the mix. That said, top marks to the principle oboist whose solos were beautifully poised. It is of course always a treat to hear Bell playing, but for this gig it was always only going to be about the band, even in the concerto. Sorry, Joshua.
Where the band undoubtedly excelled – driven by conductor Gergiev’s uncompromising approach – was Shostakovich’s 10th symphony in the second half. From the brooding intensity of the opening to the relentless battering ram of the conclusion, the work demands limitless energy which the NYO of the USA had in bucket loads (although never at the expense of precision). There were some suitably bleak moments (scored) making the bands performance as good an introduction to Shostakovich’s music for the new listener as it was for the players.
All this on three weeks rehearsal coming at the end of a packed tour and playing in one of the more demanding of concert acoustics.
The NYO of USA should feel suitably proud.