The Oxford Daily Information

International Youth Music Festival 2007

Concert to mark the end of a Musical Exchange Programme

Wesley Memorial Church, Sat August 18th 2007


On Saturday 18 August I attended the final performance of the International Youth Music Festival Orchestra at Wesley Memorial Church on New Inn Hall Street. The Festival is the culmination of this year’s installment of an annual cultural exchange between young string players from the San Francisco Bay Area in California and the UK. Five days in length, the festival affords its participants the opportunity to develop their musical skills and appreciation through performance of chamber music and mentoring by professionals and other students in what the programme described as an ‘architecturally unique’ environment.

Conducted by James Ross, the concert was perhaps appropriately book-ended by movements from string orchestra pieces by English composers Benjamin Britten and Edward Elgar. Here the students were collectively at their best. Though patchy in spots the group was notably strong in the Frolicsome Finale from Britten’s
Simple Symphony.

The majority of the programme featured performances of sections from small chamber works by composers including Brahms, Beethoven, Dvorák, Mozart and Shostakovich. In most cases groups comprised players of similar ages, which ranged from a wee 11 to a full-grown 23.

Festival organizers assure us that they are dedicated to creating a musical experience of ‘extraordinary depth and heightened musical inspiration’. In their choice of repertoire they certainly accomplished that.

Three notable performances include the Rondo Presto from Haydn’s String Quartet op. 33 no. 3 (“
The Birds”) by a group of 11- and 12-year olds with a good understanding of the communication required in chamber music, a stirring Largo-Allegro Molto (I and II) from Shostakovich’s String Quartet op. 110 no. 8 by players aged 15-18 ably anchored by American cellist Francesca Fong, and the Allegro non troppo and Scherzo sections of Brahms’ Piano Quintet in F minor op. 34 by players aged 17 - 21 which was remarkably mature and proved to be the highlight of the evening.

Well done to everyone involved, and I hope festival sponsor Youth Music International will build on its mission and involve young players from countries where cultural understanding and collaboration are needed even more urgently, such as Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina too.



Rachael Scalf, 20/08/07