We are fortunate that the Purcell School, in Bushey, is on our doorsteps. It is a co-educational boarding and day school for musically talented students agend 9-18; they come from many countries, and this concert demonstrated their musical brilliance, young as they are. The students’achievements during and after their time at the school are impressive evidence of its standing.

The works played at this concert were well chosen examples of the strength of serious European music as a contribution to world culture and of the talents of the school’s orchestra.

The string section, whose reliability is, of course, vital, immediately showed good tone and expression in the opening work, the overture to The Wasps, by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 - 1958) – the concert began and ended with famous English music.

The ballet suite Ma Mere l'Oye (Mother Goose) by Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937) provided great opportunities for the woodwind: there was good balance of that section with the strings. The oboes and bassoons particularly impressed.

Then came a novelty: the Second Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra by Marcin Blazewicz (born in Poland in 1953). The marimba resembles a zylophone, and is associated with South Africa and Central America: Spanish-American rhythms are prominent in this work.

The soloist, Hyungi Lee, originally from South Korea, recently went on from the Purcell School to the Royal College of Music and has already had notable international successes. She played with confident brilliance, and demonstrated the delicate dynamics and varied rhythms of which the marimba is capable, with excellent backing by the orchestra. Her cadenzas were impressive.

As the one work after the interval, the Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar (1857 – 1934) was an excellent choice, a key work of English romantic music. Its 14 sections are musical portraits of the composer’s friends, and are all quite short, not too strenuous for young players – some of whom must have been recent entrants to the school: for example, in the ‘cello section several of the players were hardly as large as their instruments!

Also notable in her solo passages was the leader of that section, Nina Kiva. The opening theme was announced expressively by the strings – the ability of the leader, Ming Chak Chan, deserves mention. The dynamics were expressively controlled throughout, exploiting the famous acoustics of the Colosseum; so were changes in tempo. A specially good movement was the eighth; slow, quiet, expressive.

All this indicates careful preparation for which the conductor, Alexander Walker, must be praised. He has a good, clear beat and achieves fine control. He already has an impressive international reputation, and as he works more in England we shall certainly hear more of him here. Finally, it must be added that the programme notes were exceptionally thoughtful and informative, apppropriately, no doubt, for this remarkable musical institution.