Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
VENUE: Huddersfield Town HallREVIEW: William Marshall
THIS was an ingeniously devised concert with a strong sense of thematic unity that was not apparent from a first glance at the programme.
The composers were Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Mozart. The Russian nationality of the first two was an obvious link, but how did Mozart fit into the latest concert in a Kirklees series that has the umbrella title Romantics and Revolutionaries?
Well, the first item was Tchaikovsky’s Suite No 4, which is given the subtitle Mozartiana. The fascinating four-movement work is the Russian composer’s orchestration and reworking of a sequence of pieces by Mozart.
There is some dislocation, in hearing themes from Mozart reworked by a Russian late romantic, but the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, under Vasily Petrenko, made a powerful case for the suite. The performance included an exquisitely executed and lengthy violin solo in the final movement – a set of variations.
The Mozartiana included woodwind and brass, whereas the concert’s final work, Tchaikovsky’s Serenade in C major, is for strings only. But there was no problem in detecting a line of development from Mozart to Tchaikovsky.
This performance of the Serenade, with its famous declamatory opening, featured a wonderful body of string sound, especially in the shimmering pianissimo that concluded the third movement.
The Mozartian theme of the concert was emphasised by the fact that the second half opened with that composer’s own Don Giovanni Overture, a piece which showed that Mozart could capture emotional turmoil just as effectively as any of his romantic successors.
At the heart of the concert was a performance of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No 1. With its percussive energy, it could have unbalanced the programme by injecting 20th century angst and alienation.
But despite the aggressive nature of the piano writing, the concerto proved to be quite an uplifting, optimistic work, with immense technical demands that were fully met by soloist Kirill Gerstein, who was plainly at home with some of the jazzier tinges.
Rapid-fire piano virtuosity characterised the piece, but perhaps the highlight was a dreamily beautiful slow section.