How the National Youth Orchestra is leveling the playing field
She also pledged to have the orchestra play a wider range of music. For Running Riot!the recent London Southbank Center concert, the ONJ was inspired by Stravinsky’s work The Rite of Spring, which shocked audiences when it premiered in 1913, pairing the work with new music by Gabriela Ortiz and Dinuk Wijeratne. Tickets were free for all teenagers.
As I enjoyed pre-concert refreshment, I lazily flicked through Opera magazine, a name popped off the page.
Jan Latham-Koenig was praised for his “tight baton”, under which “the playing of the orchestra undulated in detail”. The work in question was Rigoletto, which premiered at the Royal Opera House Muscat in Oman earlier this year. Latham-Koenig was the reason I was at Basingstoke’s Anvil, where the conductor was performing with the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra, as part of the Croatian ensemble’s current UK tour.
Seeing an international orchestra still seems miraculous after a two-year travel hiatus, but the arrival of the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra holds special significance. As the pandemic began to take its toll, Zagreb received an additional blow: an earthquake damaged nearly 2,000 buildings in the Croatian city, including the concert hall and many houses of musicians. This tour, the band’s first time in the UK since 1974, was a statement of determination.
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This grit could be heard in Mahler’s First Symphony, which was bright and colorful, if not finely textured. Latham-Koenig brought infectious energy to the podium; highlighting the wood motifs – like the famous “cuckoo” emblem – and the brass ornaments.
British violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen was the superb soloist in the Sibelius concerto, garnering repeated applause. Four songs by Croatian composer Dora Pejačević, largely unknown to British audiences, were welcome additions. Given that the busy schedule had the potential to be heavy, the evening flew by. As my neighbor exclaimed at the end of the Mahler, “That was the fastest time I’ve ever known.”
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