Orchestra Europa's pre-launch season kicked off at the Oxford Playhouse last Friday with a concert that delighted on several levels. Firstly, it showcased some of the finest talent currently emerging from Britain's conservatoires, giving hope to anyone who thought classical music was a lost cause among the younger generation. Secondly, it provided the graduates with a valuable performance opportunity in a supportive and nurturing environment. And finally, it saw a classical music concert making a rare excursion into the Playhouse, which, with its traditional theatre-like atmosphere and comfortable seating, proved the ideal venue.

The success of the evening was helped by the fact that conductor Scott Ellaway (pictured) has charm and enthusiasm by the bucketful. Only a few years older than the players he is so committed to helping, Ellaway is already a veteran of the conducting circuit, and his maturity is readily apparent in his calm but decisive conducting style, which leaves nobody in any doubt as to his intentions. Haydn's Symphony No.82, The Bear, was a bright and joyous opener, with the orchestra giving the music just the right lightness of touch; graceful and elegant in the courtly minuet, and bubbling delightfully in the final, dance-like movement.

Johann Adolf Hasse is not a composer whose name readily springs to mind these days, but if Pallido il sole from his opera Artaserse, first performed in 1730, is typical of his output, then perhaps it's time he was restored to the mainstream repertoire. Counter-tenor James Bowman put the song across with his customary sense of style and aplomb, his tone pure and pliant as ever. He paired the song with an aria from a little-known Mozart opera, Mitradate, written when the composer was 14 years old, and again delighted with a dramatic and sparkling rendition. But the final word was from the orchestra, who gave a glowing account of Schubert's Fifth Symphony, performing with sincerity, clarity and lyricism.

For more information about Orchestra Europa, visit www.orchestraeuropa.org