Asian Youth Orchestra Saturday City Hall Concert Hall The Asian Youth Orchestra gathers each year 100 talented instrumentalists in their mid-teens to mid-20s, many with limited orchestral experience, and transforms them through an intensive three-week summer training camp into a slick ensemble ready for a challenging regional tour. Saturday's performance, given by players from 10 countries, included meaty works by Dvorak, Sibelius and Rachmaninov. It was the 11th of their 16 concerts, ensuring that split notes and other uncertainties that might haunt the early stages of an itinerary had been put to rest. Apart from the novel experience of having to wait until the interval for a programme to make its way up to 'the gods', writing a report from a press seat tucked away in the balcony of City Hall's Concert Hall served as a reminder of why tickets there are cheap: balance and clarity suffer, and Dvorak's Carnival Overture was the main casualty. James Judd, the orchestra's principal conductor, set a cracking pace to capture the work's ebullience, but waves of brass and percussion swamped the action instead of adding edge. The relaxed sections fared no better, with the soloists' chamber-like contributions similarly indistinct. There was an impeccable relationship, however, between the orchestra and soloist Stefan Jackiw in Sibelius' Violin Concerto. Jackiw was given every support in laying out his authoritative account of the work, the sensitive accompaniment at times belying the huge forces that were providing it. All sections of the orchestra contributed intelligently to the work's dramatic ebb and flow; when let off the leash, the body of string sound was formidable. As in the rest of the programme, the tightness of ensemble shown by the players' adherance to Judd's fluid baton was impressive. Rachmaninov's Second Symphony has plenty of wham-bam in each of its four movements, and these peaks were effortlessly delivered. The valleys in between, however, were the greater test: how to drop several gears while keeping a grip on the attention before launching back into full throttle. If there was a part of the evening that challenged the players, it was here, with quicksand changes in texture and rippling dynamics proving elusive, and the shaping of lines sounding more manufactured than intuitive. The third movement's clarinet solo was expertly played but lost its magic by being too heavily masked by the accompanying strings. No doubt it sounded better balanced in the stalls.