United Kingdom Chopin orch. Stravinsky, Mozart, Bartók: Alexandra Dariescu (piano), Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Ryan Wigglesworth (conductor), Guild Hall, Preston, Lancashire, 23.4. 2013 (MC)
Chopin orch. Stravinsky: Grand Valse Brillante, Op.18
Chopin orch. Stravinsky: Nocturne, Op.32/2
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K503
Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra
After Ryan Wigglesworth abruptly started the orchestra up, tearing into the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major before soloist Alexandra Dariescu had time to adjust and settle on her piano stool, I did wonder what sort of a concert I would be experiencing. But I need not have feared as Wigglesworth directed the Liverpool Phil all evening with assured control.
Wigglesworth opened the concert with two Chopin piano pieces – the Grand Valse Brillante and Nocturne – orchestrated so expertly by Igor Stravinsky for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Certainly not the greatest works ever conceived to open a concert nevertheless these are attractively melodic pieces that deserve to be heard occasionally. Launching into the score with forthright direction Wigglesworth certainly ensured the Liverpool Phil were suitable warmed up.
The Phil’s concert given a few days earlier at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall had the high profile pianist Paul Lewis as soloist in the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 25. For some reason in the same work the Preston audience didn’t get Lewis they got the far lesser known Alexandra Dariescu. It was a pleasure to see and hear this talented and highly enthusiastic pianist, so attractively decked out in her sparkling silver gown, actually looking as if she wanted to be there. I was reminded of a Liverpool Phil soloist in the recent past whose lacklustre approach and workaday dress sense just smacked of an attitude of taking the audience for granted. Romanian born Dariescu revelled in this wonderful music of might, breadth and resonance with deliciously sparkling playing that had real gravitas. With profound concentration Dariescu’s sensitive playing of the Andante conveyed a satisfying sense that everything was well with the world. Responsive playing from the Liverpool Phil, easily keeping their shape under Wigglesworth, exhibited their splendid glowing tone.
The feature work of the evening, Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, is probably his best known work. Poorly in health and depleted in spirit Bartók had not long been resident in America before the celebrated conductor Serge Koussevitzky commissioned a new work from him for his Boston Symphony Orchestra. This twentieth century orchestral staple seemed like the perfect work to showcase the individual sections of the Liverpool Phil. Maestro Wigglesworth was in his element with this colourful five movement score, savouring the significant challenges of the wide dynamics and shifting tempi, manfully controlling the various orchestral groupings into one magnificent whole. This Liverpool Philharmonic performance attests that it has the resilience to maintain its finest form over the course of a season. I am sorely tempted to say how impressed I was with the quality of the magnificent brass playing. But then that might undermine the quality of the strings, woodwind and percussion sections who were all in remarkable form.
After the concert on the way back to the car I heard three separate groups of people proclaiming to friends how glad they were when the Bartók ended. It must be so difficult to please different tastes in music especially when playing out of the big cities where a wide repertoire of music is not so readily available and as familiar to audiences. Equally I know several experienced concert goers there on the night who will have greatly appreciated the Bartók. Who would be a programme organiser?