Petrenko and RLPO Bring Scandinavian Chill to Preston

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Grieg, Mozart, Sibelius: Kathryn Stott (piano), Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra / Vasily Petrenko (conductor), Guild Hall, Preston 8.11.2011 (MC)

Grieg: Symphonic Dances
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat major, K.595
Sibelius: Symphony No.5

Audiences have come to expect that any concert conducted by Vasily Petrenko and featuring the Liverpool Philharmonic is going to be exhilarating experience and the partnership certainly did not disappoint at Preston. In his usual stylish manner the inspiring Russian conductor directed his orchestra with maturity and assurance. With the music of Grieg and Sibelius Petrenko ensured that a Scandinavian winter chill evocative of icy Norwegian fjords and stark grandeur of Finnish forests pervaded the Guild Hall.

Grieg’s Symphonic Dances is a marvellous score but not played as often as its quality would suggest. Moulding Grieg’s energetic and melodic music Petrenko constantly illuminated the textures maintaining a glorious freshness with an impressive degree of spontaneity.

A local Lancashire girl, piano soloist Kathryn Stott is extremely popular with Preston audiences. Stott elected to play the Mozart Piano Concerto in B flat major K.595, the final concerto that the great master wrote for the instrument. Straightforward and free from affectation the soloist’s interpretation delighted and entertained. I wanted a touch more poetry in the Larghetto yet she found much beauty in it. Stott’s attractive performance was aptly paced, crisp and precise with an especially vivacious finale.

Composed in 1915 during the horrors of the Great War Sibelius’s Symphony No.5 is a craggy muscular score where the various sections of the orchestra often seem to be pulling against each other. There was nothing to fear as the confident Petrenko demonstrated a profound understanding for balancing the melodic lines and orchestral textures. With a mesmerising dramatic intensity Petrenko persuaded his players into providing an abundance of Finnish vigour and fire.

As if to foretell the delights that were to come the principal oboist Jonathan Small was featured in the programme notes. With the substantial contribution demanded of him

Small’s compelling playing was astonishing for its remarkable control and timbral beauty.

Michael Cookson