THEATRE is never far from top of the bill when John Wilson’s in town.
So it was at his latest concert with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra – the brooding, hugely descriptive London Symphony by Vaughan Williams along with Elgar’s Cockaigne Overture.
But it was probably the first half which was the most interesting. The Nell Gwyn Overture by Edward German packed an energetic punch. It’s rumbustious, even bombastic – much like the figure herself – and Wilson let the orchestra rip in what was a fun-filled few minutes.
While the end dance feels just a little tacked on as an afterthought it was a great curtain raiser.
Tasmin Little has made the Delius Violin Concerto something of a calling card. However, it was good to hear this piece in the dry, receptive acoustic of Philharmonic Hall rather than her previous performance of the work with this orchestra, which was at their summer Prom in the cavernously inexact acoustic of the Royal Albert Hall in London.
This was a rhapsodic performance, a delightful, gentle piece with delicate playing from both soloist and orchestra. There was an evident chemistry between both parties and, at last, the audience seems to be learning its lesson about silence.
The piece faded away and there must have been about 20 seconds at the end of beautiful repose, without someone rushing in to applaud.
Wilson brought out the extremes in the Elgar. In a driven performance, in which horns and trombones have an excellent account, he managed to get some almost brittle pianissimos which contrasted sharply with the huge fortissimos of the large orchestra.
The London Symphony was an exercise in brilliant control. The almost imperceptible opening – and closing – were stunning.
So, too, were the impassioned outbursts in the opening movement as well as the beautifully played, haunting cor anglais solo in the slow movement. The chattering scherzo and the challenging finale made for a great performance of a work which should be performed more often.
Glyn Mon Hughes