IT’S a bold person who will come to conduct the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in a programme of all-Russian music.
With Vasily Petrenko at the helm and a string of award-winning CDs under their collective belt, why should anyone else bother?
That was not something which bothered Spanish conductor Pablo Gonzalez, who was making a welcome return trip to Liverpool. He has a robust, demonstrative style and the orchestra responded. The opening piece, Glinka’s Overture to Rusland and Ludmilla rather suffered from being fortissimo all the way with practically no let-up. It was certainly an energetic opener, which paved the way for Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto. Here, the soloist was South Korean pianist HJ Lim, making her Liverpool debut. This felt to be rather a disappointing performance, the piano showing great delicacy without the necessary power needed from time to time in the work. The opening piano chords were highly controlled, almost sombre, leading to a movement which had that big sound once again. There was some fine playing from the horn soloists. The second movement was a highly-controlled, gradual build up leading into a slightly peculiar finale.
The final piece, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, saw Gonzalez using the orchestral sound palette to the extreme. The opening felt rather slow and plodding but the second movement burst into life, with some fine bassoon and cello solos as well as violin solos from Thelma Handy. A rounded and poised slow movement led into the finale, which didn’t work: the musical quarrel between Scheherazade and the Sultan was simply too restrained.
Glyn mon Hughes