Dramatic and Colourful Playing from the RLPO under Vasily Petrenko

09/10/2017

Korngold, Delius, Respighi, & Stravinsky: Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra / Vasily Petrenko (conductor), Guild Hall, Preston, 8.10.2017. (MC)

Petrenko_Vasily_2013a_PC_Mark_McNulty_72

Vasily Petrenko (c) Mark McNulty

Korngold – Theme from The Sea Hawk

Delius – Two Pieces for Small Orchestra: On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring and Summer Night on the River

Respighi – Suite, The Birds

Stravinsky – The Firebird (original version, 1910)

For its opening concert in this season’s Preston series the Liverpool Philharmonic under Vasily Petrenko performed with genuine distinction a popular and accessible programme titled ‘The Birds’ containing a marked international feel. The orchestra seems to have added additional finesse and style to its renowned dramatic and colourful playing and the result was a most potent one.

Opening the concert was Korngold’s stirring theme from his score to the Michael Curtiz Hollywood epic The Sea Hawk from 1940. In accordance with the custom of the time at Warner studios Korngold’s piano score was orchestrated by a team of arrangers notably Hugo Friedhofer who rarely gets a mention. Under Petrenko’s baton it was easy to imagine the refreshing salt spray of the sea and swashbuckling antics of film star Errol Flynn as Geoffrey Thorpe the captain of a group of privateers who capture a Spanish galleon. In the passionate passages the tender playing perfectly evoked the love scenes between Captain Thorpe and Spanish Ambassador’s daughter Doña María. Outstanding was the unified sound of the string section which has developed an elevated level of excellence in recent years.

I’m not sure how often Petrenko conducts Delius but on this evidence, he seems eminently suited to this warmly atmospheric music. The two pieces for orchestra chosen On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring and Summer Night on the River with their wealth of sensuous textures were played with aplomb, convincingly creating a world of impressionist nature paintings. With woodwind suggesting birdsong exceptionally the flute, clarinet and oboe took their opportunity to shine with both hands.

Although one of Respighi’s best loved works on the concert platform I was hearing his suite The Birds for the first time in a long while. His late-Romantic idiom was ingeniously fused with elements of Italian Renaissance and Baroque music heard to great effect in his tone poems of which his five-movement suite The Birds is a significant example. With each movement based on the music of a Baroque composer here Respighi has successfully managed to incorporate both song and actions of birds into his music. The players relished this bold, regal, often festive writing combining a velvety quality with brilliance and real panache. With many solo contributions offered in the score especially memorable were the woodwind principals and pair of clarion trumpets.

The second half of the concert was given to Stravinsky’s fairy tale ballet in two acts The Firebird. Stravinsky’s first score for Diaghilev and the famous Ballet Russes The Firebird is one of his finest achievements; certainly, his earliest real success. Wisely Petrenko chose to conduct the full ballet score rather than one of the suites. Augmenting the brass section were four onstage Wagner tubas and three trumpets positioned apart on the walkway above the stage. With the elegant Russian maestro insisting upon dynamic energy levels from the orchestra and with tempi generally on the swift side, I treasured the forthright treatment and full-blooded Romanticism. Petrenko ensured that the Dance of the Firebird simply skittered and scampered along with wondrous lightness. Played with utmost sincerity the Supplication of the Firebird was given a chilling and ghostly rendition. Beautifully and sensitively played, the Khorovod of the Princess was bewitching with glorious woodwind playing here especially from the principal oboist who all afternoon made the most of his opportunities to shine. The rapidly shifting rhythms of Kashchei’s infernal dance evoked a wild revelry and by contrast the Berceuse (Lullaby) was hauntingly tender; as soft as feathery down. In the Finale the playing of the crucial and exposed horn solo, immediately followed by the harp, was stunning. Staying in the memory the effect of the dynamic Finale was quite dramatic generating lots of decibels. Immediately afterwards I felt that there is no other conductor I would have conduct Stravinsky’s The Firebird than Petrenko.

Michael Cookson

Print Friendly

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Opera and More in Buenos Aires in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Gloucester Choral Society’s Hubert Parry’s Centenary Celebrations in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Ex Cathedra at St John’s Smith Square’s 2017 Christmas Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! Spend a Penny for Grange Park Opera’s Lavatorium Rotundum __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018 Lucerne Summer Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! World Premiere of The Nutcracker and I, by Alexandra Dariescu in December at Milton Court __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder’s Forthcoming Schubert Song Series in Leeds and Sheffield __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Ballet’s 2017 – 2018 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Contemporary Music from Manchester’s Psappha in 2017-18 __________________________________
  • NEW! I Musicanti’s ‘Alexandra and the Russians’ at St Johns Smith Square, 2017-18 __________________________________
  • NEW! Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov’s Return to London in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! St John’s Smith Square announces its 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Pierre Boulez Saal’s 2017/18 Season in Berlin __________________________________
  • UPDATED! The Glyndebourne Opera Cup and Glyndebourne in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Opera’s 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Dénes Várjon Talks to Sebastian Smallshaw About Budapest’s Kamara.hu __________________________________
  • R.I.P. IN MEMORIAM – DMITRI HVOROSTOVSKY (1962-2017) __________________________________
  • NEW! Ann Murray’s Masterclass at the V&A Part of Opera: Passion, Power and Politics __________________________________
  • NEW! Carly Paoli is ‘Singing My Dreams’ at the Cadogan Hall in February 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! A Composer Speaks Up for the Environment: An Interview with Margaret Brouwer __________________________________
  • NEW! Twelve Years of Celebrating Malcolm Arnold in Northampton __________________________________
  • NEW! What is the Critic’s Job? A Review of A. O. Scott’s Recent Book __________________________________
  • NEW! English Music Festival in Yorkshire Lifts the Lid Off an English Treasury __________________________________
  • NEW! A FULLY STAGED PILGRIM’S PROGRESS IN ORLEANS, MA __________________________________
  • NEW! JIŘÍ BĔLOHLÁVEK (1946-2017) AND THE CZECH CONDUCTING LEGACY __________________________________
  • NEW! JUSTIN DOYLE DISCUSSES MONTEVERDI WITH MARK BERRY __________________________________
  • NEW! Katie Lowe Wins the 2017 Elizabeth Connell Prize __________________________________
  • NEW! ITINÉRAIRE BAROQUE 2017: TON KOOPMAN TALKS TO COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House in Mumbai is Restored to its Former Glory __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H