Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra of Venezuela

Most of those lucky enough to hear the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, when it rolled onto London's South Bank some 18 months ago, were knocked off their feet by the bewildering skill and bursting effervescence of the young players from the barrios of Venezuela.

Not long afterwards, however, the odd dissenting voice piped up. "Shouldn't a youth orchestra be, well, younger than this?" With most of the Simón Bolívar players approaching their 30s, compared to the school-age policy of most national youth orchestras, the disgruntled minority had a point.

In Venezuela – with its mine of orchestral talent nurtured by a legendary "system" that in 38 years has transformed the lives of many of the country's disadvantaged young people – such objections evidently translate as invitations, and this year they duly dispatched a different orchestra.

Younger and less famous, but with the same fearlessness and fizz, the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra are in London at the end of a European tour, performing Beethoven and Prokofiev's fifth symphonies in two concerts. The first thing to strike you is the immense volume: though crammed into every corner of the stage, these players still have room to take a swing at the music. The second is the precision. Beethoven intended fairly lean orchestras to play all but the last of his symphonies; and in the fifth the key is in the consistency of the attack and momentum. But so well schooled are these players that their boom-box sound still allows for extraordinary sharpness and clarity.

To be sure, this isn't the most refined timbre. There's a roughness to the strings and a fuzziness to the brass, and conductor Christian Vásquez's phrasing favours the four-square over the fancy free. Prokofiev's bright colour-palette is also frequently rendered in somewhat murky tones, although his often demonically dispersed rhythms were rarely other than perfectly executed.

But it is less the sense of refinement than that of struggle which is the essential ingredient here. Indeed, if authenticity in music refers, as it should, to capturing the spirit in which a work is conceived, then I have rarely heard the hard-won triumph which concludes each work sound more authentic. And given that Beethoven's subject, no less than Prokofiev's, was man's ability to take his so-called destiny and shake it by the scruff of the neck until it yields to his will, there can be few orchestras better suited to it than this. Bravo!

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