Review (in full) of the MYO’s final concert on Sunday 11th July 2004:

End of an era and a night to remember
Midland Youth Orchestra
Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham

“Nearly half a century of Midland Youth Orchestra history resonated round the Adrian Boult Hall on Sunday, when the orchestra gave its final concert. Founded in 1956 by Blyth Major as a training-ground for potential CBSO auditionees, the MYO has gained itself an enviable reputation over the decades, renowned worldwide for its performance standards and the efficiency of its organisation. In an emotional half-hour of speechmaking before the interval Sir John Manduell, chairman of the National Association of Youth Orchestras, praised this “icon among youth orchestras of the land”, and Stephen Maddock, CBSO chief executive, looked forward to welcoming a strong MYO element into the new CBSO Youth Orchestra when it plays its first concert in October. But perhaps the most heartfelt address came from Stephen Williams, a founder-member of the MYO and now chairman. He paid tribute to his two predecessors as music director, Blyth Major and James Langley, and to his sole successor, Anthony Bradbury, and described the evening as “the end of the beginning after an amazing 48 years”. And of the music, it was entirely fitting that this final programme should be delivered to such a memorably high standard, with several past members of the MYO generously taking part. Andrew Saunders was the scintillating, exuberant soloist in Richard Strauss’s First Horn Concerto, the orchestra’s own horns were outstanding in Humperdinck’s Hansel und Gretel Overture (Williams conducting), and Walton’s Henry V Suite under Bradbury made an appropriately proud ending – and the souvenir programme really is one to treasure.”
Christopher Morley (Birmingham Post 13/07/04)

[Patrick Strub]
“Intonation was secure, attack was clearly defined, and wind chording was firm, features immediately apparent in a sonorous, well-sprung account of Glinka’s A Life for the Tsar Overture. Conductor Anthony Bradbury, surviving a busy weekend with Saturday’s BFCS concert as well, judged the opening’s pauses perfectly to the Symphony Hall acoustic. Janacek’s strange, uncharacteristically anonymous early Adagio was delivered with rich commitment, before Birmingham Conservatoire graduate David Chadwick joined the orchestra as soloist in a stunning account of Bruch’s G minor Violin Concerto. His reading combined imperious swagger and technical panache with a seamless singing line, all conveyed with an enviable purity of tone. The MYO responded with enthusiasm and mature empathy. Dvorak’s New World, the last symphony the MYO will ever tackle, saw Bradbury’s clear beat allowing his charges room to play, with some fabulous contributions from horns, solo clarinet and Stephanie Oatridge’s evocative cor anglais.” (Birmingham Post 06/04/04)

“A magical performance of Butterworth’s heart-stopping A Shropshire Lad began with two faultless clarinets over shimmering strings – a heat-drowsy rhapsody perfect for summer. Borodin’s wild Prince Igor dances were an excellent and exciting contrast, ideal for showmanship from the rostrum and exhilaration from players... Franck’s only symphony is another true showpiece, with expressive and powerful rhythms, woodwind solos, chunky brass and splendid articulation from busy strings. Much playing was admirable, in particular Marjorie Fairweather’s lovely cor anglais solo.” (Birmingham Post 15/07/03)

[The Downes Family]
“Gaelic culture (Debussy’s Marche Ecossaise), pastoralism (Butterworth’s A Shropshire Lad) and fairy tales (Borodin) – all elements of the Midland Youth Orchestra’s programme that were given an engaging re-working in Saturday’s premiere of Andrew Downes’ Celtic Rhapsody. Musically, the Celtic influence was most obvious in the high, sustained soprano lines of the three poem settings. Written for the composer’s daughter, soloist Paula Downes, the cool beauty of her voice projected the atmospheric phrases... Authoritatively conducted by Anthony Bradbury, a generally confident orchestra was at its best in the first song (a simple, eloquent cello opening and arresting juxtapositions of lyricism with rollocking rhythmic motifs) and the third’s rousing close... [On Saint-Saens Cello Concerto no. 1] A highly disciplined, communicative MYO was wonderfully responsive to the soloist’s fire... Attention to detail was consistently impressive, but the cathartic lushness and gutsiness of Borodin’s Polovstian Dances provided an irresistible close.” (Birmingham Post 10/03/03)

“A glowing, committed reading of Nielsen’s First Symphony was one of the highlights of Saturday’s concert from the Midland Youth Orchestra. Careful attention to detail from music director Anthony Bradbury complemented a spirited approach from these talented young players to impart taut enthusiasm, vigour and dedication to this sinewy music. Reserves of power were patiently built, culminating in the climaxes of the MYO’s splendid heavy brass section; elsewhere deft utterances from a gifted woodwind department were appropriately runic.” (Birmingham Post 18/03/02)

[Percussion and Brass]
“[On Arnold Symphony no. 2] A warm and affectionate allegro and sinister but colourful vivace were gripping but even better was the ethereal tragedy of the lento, shattered by chilling brass and percussion, and the exuberant last movement, the breezy woodwind theme and fierce, fugal writing providing brilliant contrast. Excellent horn, piccolo and bassoon solos deserve special mention, as does resourceful, positive string playing. Conducted by Anthony Bradbury, this was a genuinely professional standard of performance, revealing the structure and vivid, uncluttered orchestration behind the engaging surface glitter of Arnold’s work.” (Birmingham Post 20/03/01)

“Dvorak’s music is always youthful – a joy to play, however The Noonday Witch set the imagination flowing with a dark folk-inspired tale. Dramatic brass offset shimmering strings, with the peevish child suitably depicted by principal oboe... Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto, always a favourite, was skillfully played by Richard Moore. His bright ringing cadenzas contrasting well with long controlled phrasing in the slow movement... Spot on horns thrilled in Sibelius’s Karelia Suite, especially the heart-stopping high notes... The Walk to the Paradise Garden was evocative of Delius’s Englishness par excellence, a romantic village pub depicted by luscious, tender muted strings. Then for the final thrill, where even the violas have their moment. Walton’s Crown Imperial march sent us home in a blaze of glory. Wonderful brass, shouts of encore, smiles and congratulations all round.” (Birmingham Post 13/11/00)

“[The MYO] played with a co-ordinated warm tone, firmly in tune for the opening melody of Malcolm Arnold’s Overture, Peterloo... Anthony Bradbury conveyed the dramatic excitement of the overture with powerful assurance. The symphony, too, was persuasively handled and sturdily executed... with some lovely solos from the cor anglais, horn and cello principals.” (Birmingham Post)

“Sunday’s concert given by the Midland Youth Orchestra reminded us richly that the future begins with today through its excellence of performance across a wide repertoire. The conductor of this orchestra, Anthony Bradbury, drew from his young players performances of high quality and maturity.” (Coventry Evening Telegraph)

“[On Walton & Bliss] The Midland Youth Orchestra drove confidently into the music, moving faultlessly from one dramatic set piece to the next. The orchestra is perfectly balanced... the overall effect is a vibrant, full-bodied sound, beautifully produced with the minimum of fuss.” (Evening Express, Aberdeen)

“In the presence of the composer, the MYO gave the Midlands premiere of Malcolm Arnold’s Eighth Symphony. Every department of the orchestra rose to the grateful challenges of this marvellous score... Arnold was full of praise for the young players of the orchestra and the way they performed his work. ‘The percussion is very important in that piece and they have some marvellous percussionists!’” (Birmingham Post)

[MYO in Symphony Hall]

On the 40th Anniversary Gala Concert, Symphony Hall (pictured above): “The orchestra was directed with a positive firmness by Anthony Bradbury, who is fast developing a very self-assured style. Bradbury retained a light touch in Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A... thus never obscuring Anthony Goldstone’s delicate piano playing. Finally, under Stephen Williams’s firm control, the MYO demonstrated in its playing the high quality of its 40 years of nurturing in an exciting performance of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8.” (Birmingham Post)