The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, teenagers all, has gained great popularity for its BBC Proms concerts, and listeners without access to those will be glad to have this sample of the group's work. The program reproduces a concert done shortly before the recording was made in 2016. On offer are a pair of warhorses that were written for and tax the capabilities of top-flight symphonic ensembles. How does a youth group stack up? In the brasses and winds, all-important in both The Planets and Also sprach Zarathustra, very well indeed. Sample one of the big buildups: the famed 2001: A Space Odyssey passage at the beginning of Also sprach Zarathustra, or Holst's "Saturn." The players unerringly follow the lead of conductor Edward Gardner with controlled playing that can rival anybody's. Do you get silken strings to match the Vienna Philharmonic's? No, but the players never sound like they're struggling. And there's an X factor to consider: the enthusiasm of young musicians who are encountering these familiar works for the first time. There are cleaner versions of the great fugue in Strauss' "Von der Wissenschaft" (Of Science) movement, but few that have the sense of charging through it that you get here. Some of this, of course, is Gardner's doing, and both works are freshly shaped and considered under his baton. He's aided by expert engineering work from Chandos in Birmingham's Symphony Hall. Recommended for anyone in need of a breath of fresh air.
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