Difficult to find the superlatives to describe last night's concert at Snape Maltings with Sir Colin Davis (left) conducting The Combined Orchestra of The Guildhall School of Music and the Royal Academy of Music. This brought together the top players from two of London's (and the world's) leading music conservatoires in a vast orchestra (14 cellos and 12 basses!) that filled the Maltings capacious stage and scarcely left Sir Colin room to make his way to the rostrum. Sir Colin revels in working with young players (his 2005 Prom with an orchestra drawn from the Royal Academy and Juilliard Schools was a highlight of the season) and he has worked regularly at both the Royal Academy and Guildhall.
The programme was Berloz's Overture Béatrice et Bénédict (a Davis speciality), Tchaikovsky's Fantasy Overture Romeo and Juliet, and in the second half Elgar's magnificent Symphony No 1 in A flat major. The 79 year old Sir Colin's Elgar is passionate and red-blooded, in fact close your eyes and you would have thought the conductor was the same age as the players. The intonation and attack of the orchestra belied the large number of players. And the sound, oh the sound ... We are so privileged to have Snape as our 'village hall'; it is brick, the auditorium only holds 700, there are no balconies, and even the seating eschews upholstery to preserve the warmth of the sound. The bottom registers in the packed hall last night were extraordinary, full bodied with real slam, but warm and glowing and never dry.
But above all it was the playing. It would be wrong to say that the quality matched that of the many big-name orchestras I heard at the Proms this year - this student orchestra knocked everyone of them, including the Berlin Philharmonic, into a cocked-hat. It really highlighted the folly of the 'London today, Edinburgh tomorrow' lifestyle of our professional orchestras. In Snape Maltings we heard spontaneity, commitment, enthusiasm and above all risk taking.
Last night rammed home that there is only one form of music, and that is live music. MP3s, CDs, iPods, YouTube and our other technology baubles are just pale shadows of the real thing. And the concert also rammed home that the future of live music making is safe in the hands of the young players of the Guildhall School, Royal Academy and all the other music colleges around the world. As we made our way out of the Maltings car park after the concert the young players passed us laughing, joking and buzzing with adrenalin as they boarded the fleet of buses to take them on the foggy late night 100 mile drive back from Suffolk to London. Elgar denied that there was any programme to his A flat major symphony, but told friends it expressed "a wide experience of human life with great love and massive hope for the future". Amen to that.
* Notable students of the Royal Academy of Music: Sir Harrison Birtwistle, John Dankworth, Lesley Garrett, Evelyn Glennie, Sir Elton John, Dame Felicity Lott, Joanna MacGregor, Michael Nyman and Sir Simon Rattle.
* Notable students of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama - Susan Chilcott, Dido, Sir James Galway, Dave Holland, Paul Lewis, Tasmin Little, Sir George Martin, Anne Sophie von Otter, Jacqueline du Pré, Bryn Terfel and Janice Watson.
* Sir Colin's live (Barbican) recording of Elgar 1 with a professional orchestra on LSO Live is highly recommended, available from Prelude Records and other good record stores.
Now read about the delight of the classical music industry.
Image credit: Lower photo is of Royal Academy players, but Royal Academy Aarhus, Denmark which by sheer coincidence takes us down another Overgrown Path. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk