VASILY Petrenko’s predecessor, Gerard Schwarz, claimed there were two world capitals of music – London and New York.
And to be booked to play in either means you’ve made it on the classical music stage.
London might have the edge over New York, though, since it stages the BBC Proms, the world’s largest and arguably most prestigious music festival.
However, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra has been absent for the last three years, and thought last night’s return to the Royal Albert Hall for a near sell-out concert – and that’s no mean feat for the Phil; the hall seats in excess of 6,000 – was most welcome.
But, then, how could they not have featured in the programme in 2008 of all years?
Crucially too, it was Petrenko’s Proms debut.
And that’s following a series of highly complimentary features from metropolitan music journalists who have been notable by their absence in Hope Street in recent years.
This performance could see all that change in the future.
The programme opened with a world premiere – a soul-searching piece entitled Graven Image by Kenneth Hesketh, the Phil’s composer in the house. Hesketh has been widely heard in Liverpool in recent years and this Proms debut and the piece, a fascinating kaleidoscope of colours and textures, received a warm welcome.
He talks of the piece being a "reminder of our mortality" – which it might have been – but there was constant movement and constant interest. He used the pallet of sounds provided by the RLPO to maximum effect. There was energy – to the point that, when the orchestra was called upon to perform flat out it felt like a coiled spring about to be let loose.
Then, Huyton-born Paul Lewis was soloist in Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto.
Again, this was an energetic performance, but which was at the same time concise and disciplined.
The first movement flowed impeccably while the gentle second movement merged into a compulsive, pithy performance of the finale.
And then to one of Petrenko’s signature pieces – the Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances – which have gripped Liverpool audiences.
This performance was little different, lively, searching, thoughtful and at times almost over the edge.
There's something of Ravel’s La Valse in here, but this performance of the Rachmaninov was transparent and highly accomplished, with many worthy soloists showing their skills.
This was the RLPO at its best – as the Prommers showed in their applause.