I enjoy listening to all kinds of classical music on CD and radio but this was the first time I’d been to a live concert.

It started with Dvorak’s Cello Concerto which I hadn’t heard before. It was in three movements. The ‘Allegro’ was an energetic, fun, toe-tapping piece that at times almost sounded like folk music. It was a great start to the night. The ‘Adagio ma non troppo’ was slower and calmer but the orchestra and the cellist, Raphael Wallfisch, still maintained the sparkle from the Allegro. The solo flute also stood out as particularly beautiful.

Then the ‘Allegro moderato’ concluded the concerto. It was fantastic. The cellist and Tamas Andras, the lead violin, seemed to be having a musical conversation, almost chatting and laughing as they sent the tune from one to the other. It was such fun to watch and something you don’t get to see when you are only listening to a recording. The final moments were amazing and the audience had started to clap before the music had ended! It was a lovely, ‘feel good’ piece of music. I hope I can buy a recording of Raphael Wallfisch playing it. There was so much applause that he came back in and treated the audience to a Bach solo. This was a lucky, surprise extra.

After the interval, conductor Marios Papadopoulos made an announcement that the concert’s sponsor, who was in the audience, was celebrating his 70th birthday. The conductor turned and led the orchestra in a stirring rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ and all the audience sang - another example of how live concerts can throw in the unexpected.

Holst wrote pieces for seven of the planets in our solar system and I know this music well so it was exciting to hear it played live. First, Mars, The Bringer of War, exploded into life. In comparison with recordings I’ve heard, this was simply overpowering in its performance. Every note seemed to storm through my body, almost forcing me to catch my breath. It felt gigantic. Venus, Mercury and Jupiter followed. Venus, in contrast to Mars, was calming, beautiful and had a sense of total perfection; as if this was how life should be. Where Venus had been calm, Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age, was tranquil and soft. Easy on the ears, Saturn felt like a place to reflect on the journey so far.

Then came my favourite piece of the night: Uranus, the Magician. This has been the part of the Planets I have enjoyed most in recordings. It was made even more special by the fact the orchestra seemed to unite and give it everything they had left, especially the percussionist on drums who, oblivious to the audience, really appeared to be having a good time, almost dancing as he played. Finally, Neptune, the Mystic arrived in a sea of magic. Out of nowhere, as the music was approaching conclusion, came the off-stage voices of the Chorus, so softly I could barely tell they had started, so beautiful it was as if the audience was being carried into outer space by angels. It was a lovely ending to a memorable night.

I now really want to go to more concerts and have already begun looking. I think I’m hooked!

By Steven Williams (age 16)

Steven's concert took place at the Sheldonian in Oxford on 5th April 2008 Raphael Wallfisch – Cello, Marios Papadopoulos – Conductor Tamas Andras – Guest Leader