mon 24/06/2024

RLPO 175th Birthday Concert, Petrenko, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall | reviews, news & interviews

RLPO 175th Birthday Concert, Petrenko, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

RLPO 175th Birthday Concert, Petrenko, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

Anniversary Mendelssohn and Beethoven under the fiery leadership of resident Russian

Vasily Petrenko and soloists Claire Rutter, Kathryn Rudge, Bryan Register and Andreas SchiebnerMatt Thomas

When the curtain came down on Liverpool’s year in the limelight as European Capital of Culture, back in 2008, there may have been some who thought that the party was over. Things in the city’s arts world were never going to the same, however, and much has changed since 2008, mostly for the better. But there is one institution which, though it’s been through some major changes in its lifetime, is a constant on the Liverpool scene.

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic is celebrating its 175th birthday. Philharmonic Hall has been refurbished and building work continues to provide a new performance space at the rear of the hall. Throughout this season, there are new commissions and the various spheres in which the organisation is active continue to grow.

All eyes, though, were on 12 March, as that was the day, 175 years ago, that the first concert was promoted by the Liverpool Philharmonic Society. That event, at Mr Lassell’s Saloon in Great Richmond Street, around a mile from the present Philharmonic Hall, featured works by, amongst others, Bishop, Spohr, Kalliwoda, Auber and Rossini. The most recent celebration contained three works, all of which had featured in previous celebrations.

The opening piece, the short chorus “Fair is the Bride” from Rossini’s William Tell, featured in that first concert. Performed here by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, under Vasily Petrenko, this was a pleasant enough amuse-bouche ahead of the main musical meal. The main programme comprised just two works: Mendelssohn’s Die erste Walpurgisnacht and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. This was identical to the 75th anniversary concert in 1915, and the Mendelssohn also featured in the centenary concert in 1940.

Vasily Petrenko at RLPO birthday concertSo what of this Mendelssohn performance? It burst on the scene in a furious frenzy, the swirling currents portrayed in the Hebrides Overture never far away. There was huge energy in here, Petrenko (pictured right) demanding much from the orchestra and getting what he asked for. The disciplined chorus also obliged, though the chordal nature of the writing does become tiresome and one longs for a fugue to break the monotony. That said, the amount of light and shade imposed by the conductor did much to help matters. There was some fine singing from baritone Andreas Schiebner and from tenor Bryan Register, whose bright, pure tone was a particular delight. Mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge, though, sounded overwhelmed at times here.

The Beethoven “Choral” felt just a little insecure at the outset, though that soon settled into an efficient, balanced interpretation of the first movement, full of fire and drama and driven by Petrenko. The Scherzo really moved at a pace, almost to the point where it felt a little rushed. But that was easily compensated by the seriously relaxed pace of the Adagio. Give or a take a few inaccuracies from the horns, the emotion bound up in this piece was almost brimming over, with some particularly splendid playing from the lower strings.

Then there was that last movement. The choir, regimentally precision-drilled, were on particularly fine form. The cruelly high soprano line felt effortless, the seriously tricky intervals for the men seemed to present little challenge. The words of Schiller's "Ode to Joy" were clear – probably because, singing without scores, the choir concentrated even harder. Again, the orchestra was bristling with energy, ever egged on by Petrenko. The male soloists, were once more on fine form but Rudge and soprano Claire Rutter just seemed that little reticent.

Yet that was as nothing on this special night. The audience, who packed the hall, loved it and gave a long standing ovation. They certainly know how to party in Liverpool.

The words of Schiller's "Ode to Joy" were clear – probably because, singing without scores, the choir concentrated even harder


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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I have just read this very misleading review of an outstanding RLPO concert. Surprisingly the local writer appears to be set upon denigrating individual performance contributions within his analysis of the choir and orchestra and he is particularly unsupportive of the young mezzo, who is an outstanding British talent. She sang beautifully and with great poise in the Mendelssohn and was not, as the writer suggests, overwhelmed in her delivery from where I was sitting! To again lavish praise on the male soloists and target the female soloists as being reticent in the Beethoven is inexplicable. The comment that the choir ‘concentrated even harder’ because they were singing without scores is an insult. To me this review is full of pettiness and considerable personal bias when we should be singing the praises of a historical evening that was uplifting, presented by an elite organisation and team of performers, for which, I for one, am truly grateful that I had the pleasure of witnessing.

Totally agree with the comments made by M Wright.Katie Rudge is an outstanding talent,with a fine track record of excellent performances with the Liverpool Phil and many other prestigious orchestras and opera companies.The whole evening was a resounding success with superb contributions from all participants.Congratulations to all concerned.

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