Sunday, 3 April 2011

Sunday at the Phil

Went to a very enjoyable concert at the Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool. Called in at the Philharmonic pub for half of Coach House’ Gunpowder mild first – very nice, plenty of taste and body despite being only 3.8%.
The concert began with Vaughan-Williams’ Wasps overture, very brightly played and well-paced, a nice opener to the programme. I could see a mental picture of a sunny summer garden with lush planting, colourful flowers, and (unfortunately) the aforementioned wasps swarming.

The middle item was Helene Grimaud playing Mozart’s 23rd piano concerto. Lovely playing, and a lovely bright sound again from both the soloist and orchestra, but she took the words “slow movement” rather too literally. The second movement is marked Adagio (and in some later editions revised to Andante) but unfortunately she played so slowly that the momentum of the music was lost (well, at least on me). It must also have made hard work for the woodwind section who are given broad sweeping phrases in response to the piano part. The two outer movements went at a bright bubbling pace which sounded just right.

Ms Grimaud treated us to an encore, a very romantic arrangement of Gluck’s Dance of the Blessed Spigots.

The last piece was Tchaikovsky’s Manfred symphony. A large piece scored for a large orchestra including organ, a tubular bell, five horns, large brass section, two harps and a gong that could have called the deaf in for dinner from half a mile away. The piece started with a stormy first movement, spirited second movement, lushly romantic third and a fourth which includes the death of said Manfred.

While I listened, I could hear elements to be found in the music of Stravinsky and Rachmaninov...especially the woodwind (and bassoon) in Stravinsky’s earthy pieces, and the strange chordal use of horns and strings in Rachmaninov. There were characteristic Tchaikovsky touches throughout, for instance the use of Russian folk dance rhythms, his lush horn sound and sweeping melodic phrases over a rhythmic throbbing bass line. Plenty of use of tymps and strong brass as well as the aforementioned gong.

The whole piece ended quietly in a triumphant B major, presumably to signify Manfred’s ascent into, erm, wherever.

The audience erupted into applause maybe a little too quickly.... Mr Petrenko looked a little stern and then shrugged his shoulders at the orchestra before turning round (or he may have just been a bit stiff in the shoulder area?). He came back on after a few calls, and got the orchestra to play an encore, the Trepak from the Nutcracker, played at a cracking pace. This was greeted by a loud Waaaaay! from the audience.

A fabulous event all round, worth making the effort. In true cheesy style, on the way there (and back) I listened to a couple of Beatle’s CDs which somehow seemed to sum up the drive into Liverpool, with its derelict areas reduced to rubble (sob, sniff, they knocked down some gorgeous if old houses) and the city centre which was just as busy on a Sunday afternoon as any other time in the week. I think I kind of recognised where the Fab Four may have been influenced...or maybe that’s just my imagination (running away with me).

Interested to read this review of the concert just now:

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