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A unique and valuable opportunity

26 May 2021

Concertgebouworkest Young is preparing itself for the summer! On 5 August, the 72 young musicians from all over Europe will finally come together in Akoesticum in the Dutch town of Ede.

After a year of online lessons and collective zoom sessions, they will now meet each other in person and prepare a wonderful programme under the tutelage of members of the Concertgebouworkest: Jörg Widmann’s concert overture Con Brio, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 with Paul Lewis as a soloist, and Brahms’s Symphony No. 2. The British conductor Daniel Harding will lead the concerts on 19 August at The Concertgebouw and on 21 August at the Philharmonie in Cologne.  

Daniel Harding is looking forward to it. In his youth, he himself played in several youth orchestras in England. He looks back on these experiences as formative, because that is where one really learns to play together. ‘We all study and practice on our own, but it is playing with other people that gives you so much musical understanding and so much perspective - not only on music but also on yourself.’

‘It is an essential and thrilling thing to learn how to master your own instrument whilst being totally aware of what other people are doing around you and to understand that music is something that exists when it is shared.’

The maestro counts himself lucky to have had this experience, as ‘youth orchestras aren’t as present in our society as they were 20 or 30 years ago.’

Daniel Harding - © Julian Hargreaves
DANIEL hARDING - © Julian Hargreaves

Concertgebouworkest Young has an extra bonus, as it brings together young people from all over Europe. ‘And they are looked after by members of one of the world’s great orchestras, that is an extraordinary thing, that’s very rare', says Harding.

The fact that the members are so young is also special: ‘if you want to give a new generation of musicians a deep understanding of what it is to play in an orchestra, you have to start early’, Harding argues. ‘We train people to be soloists, but in the end, if they are lucky, most of them will be in an orchestra. And that is a wonderful thing, being in an orchestra, but you have to learn how to do it.

Now there are quite a lot of specialized international youth orchestras which cater for musicians who are already very advanced in their development. And sometimes it can be too late: at 22, 23, they may have acquired bad habits or picked up bad influences, or their capacity to absorb things may have changed. Between 14 and 18 you can still give them an incredible amount of information and inspiration. The earlier you give time to people and put them in the right direction, the more effect it will have.’

Daniel Harding praises Young for the combination of its young age group and the fact they come from such diverse backgrounds, all bringing different experiences and different influences and ideas to the mix: they will be so hungry to learn from each other! In addition, the fact that they are looked after by musicians of such a high level, and with such experience of what orchestral playing is, makes this a unique and incredibly valuable opportunity.’