REVIEW: NEW PROFESSIONALS ORCHESTRA Hampstead Parish Church

By Michael White: As one of the quieter personalities in an orchestra (and because of it, the butt of many a musician s joke), the viola doesn t often step into the limelight. But when it does, the comfortably glowing tone can be magical; and in the hands of a star player

As one of the quieter personalities in an orchestra (and because of it, the butt of many a musician's joke), the viola doesn't often step into the limelight. But when it does, the comfortably glowing tone can be magical; and in the hands of a star player like Paul Silverthorne, principal viola of the LSO and appearing here with the New Professionals Orchestra at Hampstead Parish Church, the jokes are forgotten.

He was the soloist in a new concerto-style piece by a young american composer, Gabriela Lena Frank. Called La Llorona, it functioned like a tone-poem, with a mythic narrative about tragic, female suicides reborn as vengeful water-spirits. And the nature of the solo instrument inevitably favoured the tragedy rather than the vengeance - a nicely crafted response to a score that was colourful, competent, technically secure but under-achieveing in the manner of so much soft-core contemporary music coming these days out of the US.

That said, it was enterprising of the NPO to bring Hampstead a not insignificant European premiere. They're a spunky outfit, full of drive and ambition. And their high-velocity Beethoven 5 that followed was electrifying: without the period-style crispness that period-style speeds need, but otherwise brilliantly engineered by the orchestra's founder-conductor Rebecca Miller who strikes me as a musician of stature as well as stamina. Someone to watch.