Other than seeing some of the best young musicians at work, this was not a concert whose programme was encouraging. The European Union Youth Orchestra gave its first ever commission to London born Richard Causton in recognition of the Olympic Games. We heard its UK premiere. The work is based on William Blake’s poem Jerusalem where a mythological world is likened to districts of London some of which have been venue of the Olympics.
Twenty-Seven Heavens lasts twenty minutes and is a sophisticated work, and although it started with screeching first desk violins and the plucking of a few other violins it develops - with a regular plop in the background. At times it was other-worldly and we heard deep trombones and tuba, with a drum beat taking overall command. Clarinets and bassoon came to the fore and then cellos were at their highest, like mellow violins. A second and third hearing would consolidate the work for me. But Richard Causton was on stage at its end for a deserving applause.
Debussy’s three Nocturnes seemed much more reserved. Nuages almost sleepy with lovely cor anglais and flute parts. Fêtes was brighter and livelier whilst Sirènes, with the ladies of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, allowed everything to be calm and reassured.
After the interval and for an hour and a quarter, American born Garrick Ohlsson showed us how Busoni’s Piano Concerto should be played. Because of its length it is a rarity - there are five movements. The third, Pezzo seriosa, is the work’s contrepiece and is subdivided into four sections. Just like Beethoven’s Ninth it ended with the men of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus singing Adam Oehlenschläger’s Lift up your hearts to the power eternal - in German.
The European Union Youth Orchestra recruits musicians of at least Conservatoire standard, aged between 14 and 24, who hold a passport from one of the 27 EU countries. In return they play under some of the greatest conductors, learn with leading teachers, mix with like-minded musicians and travel the world. When performing the young ladies wear the long blue sash with the EU emblem.
The European Union Youth Orchestra was founded in 1976 by the late Lionel Bryer and Joy Bryer. Sir Edward Heath was its first President. Joy Bryer, its Secretary General, was with us in the Usher Hall.
Event: Thursday 23 August at 8pm