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PATRIC STANDFORD attended the UK's
National Young Musicians' Festival


A remarkable Festival has been happening every May for the last eight years in Halifax, West Yorkshire, UK. It is the National Young Musicians' Festival, two weeks during which chamber music ensembles, drawn from the leading music conservatories, present public recitals and workshops.

The Festival is directed by Douglas Jarman, professor at the Royal Northern College, whose idea it was back in 1992 to provide a platform for what he believed to be an emerging generation of remarkable young ensembles. This year his mission has been well proved yet again.

Each year the Festival begins with a new piece, performed by children, and composed by Barry Russell -- one of our most prolific and inventive composers currently working in schools. This year 190 children presented The Ice Palace, Russell's latest and most adventurous school opera. The Duke Quartet were special guests for the opening chamber music recital, which was followed by an evening with the Castle Players from the Welsh College of Music, with music by Villa-Lobos, Martinu and Three Irish Folksong by John Corigliano. The Leeds College of Music Big Band presented an exuberant lunchtime jazz concert, and the Tavec Quartet from the Royal College of Music gave a powerful performance of Britten's Quartet No 2, and the rarely heard Quartet No 1 by Zemlinsky. The Lycydas Piano Trio from Trinity College included first performances of two new works by Dai Fujikura, a Japanese composer (born 1977) who is currently enjoying a deserved wave of success. The Smart Quartet from the Royal Northern College was joined by Stephen Underhill for a magical performance of Brahms Clarinet Quintet, and the Festival ended (5 May 2001) with the Spanish Cuarteto Casals, postgraduate students at the Hochschüle für Musik in Cologne, who demonstrated the finest qualities of ensemble playing in Webern's Five Pieces with extreme concentration, exquisite balance and breathtaking dynamic contrasts -- the best live performance I have ever heard.

'They seem to reach higher standards every year, and this year is quite remarkable' says Dr Jarman. 'But I do have to twist their arms to include a 20th century piece. If I left it to them, they would all play the same few 18th and 19th century pieces.' In the 21st century this is a sad reflection on the coaching and guidance given to such talented ensembles, and the influence exerted on young performers by the music industry, which will no doubt have difficulty in absorbing all this amazing talent. But bringing it all to a platform is a great service and, support funding permitting, it should continue for many more years.

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Copyright © 11 May 2001 Patric Standford, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, UK




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