Friday, 11 January 2008

Gig-a-Blog™ (LSSO/Armstrong, Barbican)

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

London Schools Symphony Orchestra, Sir Richard Armstrong, conductor; Stephen Stirling, horn: Janáček, Jealousy; Strauss, Horn Concerto No 1; Dvořák, Symphony No 6.

What a fabulous concert by the LSSO at the Barbican. Now yes OK I have a daughter in this orchestra (and two previously in it) so of course I am biased as h*ll. But let's just pretend for a moment that I do have any sort of integrity at all, and that I am trying to be no less fair to them than to anyone else about whom I write. And to be honest(ish) with you I do think I am quite a stern critic of youth orchestras and I do get cross when they do a ropey job - because it's letting the young people down if you do it badly, apart from anything else.

Having said all that, this was a really most impressive concert. I am ashamed to say that I did not know the Janáček but it really blew me away - I thought they did a great job on it, making a real ear-catching kickoff for this concert.

The Strauss was just sensational. Stirling - well, he's just a dream of a player, producing a truly exciting performance. And what is nice is that he takes risks - you could, of course, do a very very safe careful performance of this quite dangerous piece and it would be as boring as anything. Where it's needed Stirling charges straight at it, goes fast round the corners, leaves the braking till late, and so on. It is quite stunning. And I must mention the incredibly good balance in the first movement where they just didn't let it get loud and turn it into a huge noisy wallow - Stirling kept the volume tastefully and sensibly down and Armstrong and the orchestra stayed under him, accompanying beautifully and giving the whole thing a wonderfully light effect.

The Dvořák was superb - edgy in all the right places and beautiful and lyrical in others and - well, just generally rather good actually. I know this symphony a teeny bit but it was great to hear it given such a convincing performance. Well done LSSO.

It's not just me by the way. The Independent gave it a very good write-up, while having a slightly naughty sideswipe at NYO. All good clean fun.

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