REVIEW: Worthing Youth Prom

Youth Prom – members of Worthing Symphony Orchestra and you musicians from South East England, director John Gibbons (harpsichord & organ), Boris Brovtsyn (violin), Charlotte Barbour-Condini (recorder), Josephine Tewson (narrator); at Assembly Hall, Worthing, Sunday February 10, 2013.

WORTHING Symphony Orchestra fans were treated to yet another new experience on Sunday. Director John Gibbons turned adversity imaginatively to advantage to create yet another fascinating programme and presentation of music.

Faced, according to Gibbons, with uncertainty over whether another orthodox Youth Prom was possible with the West Sussex Youth Orchestra, he made other plans. An ensemble of a maximum 11 players contained five teenaged guest instrumentalists in an afternoon of baroque that first banished the damp and chill of the pouring rain outside, then reproduced it in Winter of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

Gibbons explained: “I chose to do a different format for the Youth Prom when it was clear the West Sussex County Music Service were unable to give a 100% commitment to the event due to their ongoing funding battles. We are fully supportive of the West Sussex County Music Service but I had to ensure that we could promote a concert that was guaranteed to take place. Hence, the idea of putting talented young players alongside WSO principal string players.”

West Worthing brothers Rob Campkin (1st violins with WSO leader Julian Leaper), and Richard Campkin (cello, with WSO’s David Burrowes) were among the young instrumentalists, Rob is in his third year at Trinity College of Music, Richard in his first year reading music at Sussex University. Other WSO principals Kathy Adams (2nd violin) and Stephen Shakeshaft (viola) also had partners, while Edwin Hurcombe was a sole double bass.

After warming up with the Bourée, Aria and Hornpipe from Handel’s Water Music, and Pachelbel’s Canon, of which there are so many published arrangements, each hearing is different, on came BBC Young Musician Woodwind winner Charlotte Barbour-Condini. Still just 16, half-Caribbean, half-Italian, she articulated and transmitted beautifully Vivaldi’s RV441 Concerto in C minor on a French boxwood replica baroque treble recorder.

The small ensemble ensured transparency of texture in the concerto and a unclouded path to our ears for the virtuosic recorder part.

And then, lo and behold, having delivered that same piece with which she won the 2012 BBC title, Charlotte picked up her violin to join Leaper and Rob Campkin for the second half of the concert. Where came Gibbons’ master-stroke.

Enter not only one of Worthing’s biggest revered visiting concert soloist heroes, the Russian fiddler, Boris Brovtsyn, but English actress Josephine Tewson, known on TV as Elizabeth in Keeping Up Appearances and Miss Davenport in Last of The Summer Wine, as well as her work in comedy through the 60s, 70s and 80s. What was this all about? This was to be no hackneyed account of one of classical music’s all-time favourites.

The stepson of BBC Philharmonic leader Yuri Torchinski, Boris took control to lead the ensemble through the four Vivaldi concertos that comprise his famous The Four Seasons. But before each of the 12 movements came, narrated by Josephine, lines from the sonnets, authorship uncertain, which accompany in publication this perfect suite of concerti by a composer born during an earthquake. As if Brovtsyn’s playing is not electrifying enough, here was some of the most vividly illustrative music of its era more than once describing thunder and lightning.

While Brovtsyn frequently turned towards and linked with each section of the ensemble and magnetically exhibited many physical manifestations of the challenges of playing and interpreting his part in these tone poems, here was a marvellous opportunity in a small ensemble to watch and listen to the intimate interplay between the players, in a situation much more revelatory than would have been perceptible given a much larger ensemble as usually adopted.

Blessed with the benefit of Tewson’s words, this was some of the most rewarding listening of the WSO season so far. It even resembled being taken though an exhibition of numerous paintings on 12 themes by the same brilliant Venetian artist.

If the youth of West Sussex’s Youth Orchestra were the poorer for being denied the experience of accompanying Barbour-Condini, missing the chance to perform with Brovtsyn was an even greater deprivation.

During the interval, Barbour-Condini drew the order of playing for the 24 finalists in April’s Sussex International Piano Competition. Hosts are being sought for these 24, who come from worldwide. Anyone interested should contact or visit for more information.

The full WSO return with another stunning young talent, the cellist Laura van der Heijden, in Dvorak’s Cello Concerto, on March 10 (2.45pm). There is also Rossini’s Semiramide overture and the war-shadowed but visionarily peaceful Fifth Symphony of Vaughan Williams.

Richard Amey