A look back over the youth Proms

The youth Proms came in thick and fast, with joyous and massively exuberant events from orchestras such as the National Youth Orchestra. The tone was set by the opening, a fantasy by Edgar Varése which is teased out of one single note, that of ‘A’.

The piece, entitled Tuning Up, involves shouts of ‘sit down’ by the conductor Vasily Petrenko to the brass section. This piece, which is just the right length, reminds us that Varése had a sense of humour.

Unfortunately this was not the case for Gait, which was the first of two premieres of the evening. Nico Muhly, the fashionable New York composer, wrote this brightly coloured piece with rhythmic patterns. His inspiration came from the different gaits of animals and humans.

It has a familiar sound of American minimal music with short layers of dancing marimba whit harp and high violin sounds. However, Muhly insinuated a wan, ‘wrong-note’ pathos into the patterns, with drooping wood-wind phrases which are pursued by a sad echo, reminiscent of Britten’s Peter Grimes.

The gestures of pathos are undercut by a kind of weightlessness, which is emphasised by the interjections of brass and the slow weight of change. The clip-clop sound of a horse is a pleasant surprise.

Anna Meredith was the talented composer of the brand new piece Handsfree, given as an encore to the evening. The musicians do not use instruments in this piece but make pulsed patterns of sound through beating different parts of their bodies; for example chest, hands and knees. The piece is paced perfectly and has a fake ending, which amuses the audience, followed by the real ending which receives a cheer.