Concert review: Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra (Royal Festival Hall)

The rise of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela (formerly known as the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra) has inspired young musicians across the globe to get involved in classic performance, and under the directorship of their flamboyant conductor Gustavo Dudamel, they have fast become one of the most crowd-pleasing orchestras on the tour circuit today.

To open a four-day residency at the Royal Festival Hall on London’s South Bank, the orchestra performed a mix of Beethoven (the Egmont overture, and the Eroica Symphony) and Britten (the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, here without its optional narration). All three pieces were performed with verve and joy, and if there were points where the music could have taken a bit more flight, the enthusiasm of these young and talented players cancelled out any yearning for the depth of feeling in the Eroica that one might find from a more mature group of musicians.

El Sistema, which allows disadvantaged youngsters to follow their dreams through music, was the brainchild of Jose Antonio Abreu, who was in the audience, and he should be applauded and revered for his vision which has led to hundreds of thousands of young Venezuelans taking part in music through a chain of teaching centres known as Nucleos.

This orchestra has fun and has fire in their bellies, and the music sings with hope and happiness because of it. If you get a chance to see them (and you have to book quickly) don’t miss out. The Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra with Dudamel are definitely going places, and any audience going with them will enjoy the ride.