I'm not sure that Arnold Schoenberg would resonate with this splendidly irreverent summary of his mammoth Gurre-lieder by members of the Hertfordshire County Youth Orchestra (CYO) after their performance of the work last week. By any standards it is a gargantuan piece of music and it was a hugely brave undertaking for the CYO under the baton of Peter Stark. Once the fierceness of the air conditioning with consequent music flapping hazard had been solved, it was an extraordinarily rich and intimate experience even though we were in the huge space of Westminster Central Hall in London.
I do not know if it is the largest classical work ever composed but it required the combined forces of the Hertfordshire County Youth Orchestra and the Hertfordshire Schools Symphony Orchestra - over 140 young Hertfordshire musicians - together with the London Philharmonic Choir and the London Symphony Chorus - and six solo singers.Slushy slushy slushy summarises the first part and the love of Waldemar and Tove. Then Tove dies, perhaps at the instigation of Waldemar's queen, the story tells of her standing on the rampart watching Tove's funeral procession, holding a flaming torch aloft and "vengeance aflame in her heart".
The zombies ride through the night, Waldemar and his dead retainers, while peasants cross themselves and bar their doors - there really is nothing new in Hollywood. And finally calm resolution as the sun rises, after two hours of intense music. It is a great thing for the CYO to have done, and a privilege to be in the audience. As I have written before, this is something that Hertfordshire does really well and the Hertfordshire Music Service is to be congratulated.