Royal Liverpool Philharmonic/Alessandrini Jean-Philippe Collard – Handel, Mozart & CPE Bach

Music for the Royal Fireworks – Overture
Piano Concerto No.27 in B flat, K595
C. P. E. Bach
Symphony in F, W183/3
Symphony No.39 in E flat, K543

Jean-Philippe Collard (piano)

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Rinaldo Alessandrini

Reviewed by: Glyn Môn Hughes

Reviewed: 22 April, 2009
Venue: Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

Rinaldo AlessandriniIt’s something of a liberty that audiences expect symphony orchestras to be all things to all people. While we’d never expect a rock band to perform, say, Renaissance polyphony, why should we expect a symphony orchestra, rooted in the late Classical and Romantic traditions to suddenly switch to being a Baroque ensemble.

This was what the audience expected from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra as it performed Mozart, Handel and C. P. E. Bach.

Did the RLPO manage the stylistic switches? For the most part, yes. What annoyed – even confused – the audience was the excessive stage management that could surely have been avoided by a different programme order.

First came ‘Overture’ from Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks. Off went the harpsichord, the piano wheeled-on for Mozart’s final piano concerto, the process reversed for the 11-minute Bach symphony. The fact that half the audience left after the Mozart, expecting the interval, simply added to the fun! The Handel was very deliberate with incisive double-dotted rhythms, typically lively and spiky. Rinaldo Alessandrini, founder of Concerto Italiano, was making his first visit to Liverpool.

Jean-Philippe Collard. Photograph: Isabelle de RouvilleThe Mozart was a restrained affair. Jean-Philippe Collard, was also – surprisingly – making his first visit to Liverpool in his distinguished career. The opening movement, despite lacking verve, felt quite fast though Collard’s cadenza was quite spectacular. The Larghetto was intense if subdued and somewhat mechanical. The finale never really came alive; again, Collard’s cadenza felt like a chance to ‘get on side’ with the audience. This was a disappointing performance. Collard seemed to find the concerto itself dull, even a chore. The cadenzas seemed to belong to a different concerto; a strange experience.

It was good to hear music by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, here the third of a group of four symphonies. Alessandrini led a vigorous performance of the outer movements, the brief slow one containing some fabulous writing for woodwind.

After the interval, Mozart’s Symphony No 39 opened in a flamboyant style, full of swagger, Alessandrini highly demonstrative, almost choreographed. In some ways the performance felt a little stylised, and one wonders why if was played fortissimo throughout. The conductor rushed headlong into the Andante, there was huge energy in the Minuet, and the finale was fast and furious, the orchestra’s full sound used to maximum effect.

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