Royal Liverpool Philharmonic – New Season

Piano Concerto No.3 in D minor, Op.30
Symphony No.10 in E minor, Op.93

Simon Trpčeski (piano)

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Vasily Petrenko

Reviewed by: Glyn Môn Hughes

Reviewed: 10 September, 2009
Venue: Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

Philharmonic first nights are usually parties. This time there was much to celebrate.

Vasily Petrenko. Photograph: Mark McNulty For a start, it’s an end to those summer months in the north-west when there’s no classical music available anywhere save for the growing Manchester International Festival, the Chester Summer Music or, in August, the Lakeland Festival. To open the Liverpool Phil’s new season, the chairman of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Lorraine Rogers announced, to a completely packed Philharmonic Hall, that Vasily Petrenko, now restyled Chief Conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, was staying until 2015. There were gasps of delight from the audience who clearly had not seen the front page of local newspapers or listened to local radio. Petrenko, the darling of Liverpool audiences, milked the moment by gesturing to the orchestra and saying: “This is my family. Please enjoy being part of it.”

Simon Trpčeski Petrenko opened with a striking programme of Rachmaninov and Shostakovich. His partnership with Simon Trpčeski was stunning. Trpčeski has been to Liverpool several times before, each time playing Russian repertoire. There was a very deliberate, sustained and almost understated opening to the first movement of Rachmaninov’s sublime Piano Concerto No.3. Trpčeski’s performance was insightful and his partnership with Petrenko quite special. There were some wonderfully haunting moments and the cadenza was particularly powerful. The intense melodic development of the slow movement revealed Rachmaninov as one of the cleverest spinners of melody who has ever sat before a blank sheet of manuscript paper. Once again, the relationship of soloist and conductor was finely balanced, melting into the finale. Here, Petrenko exploited the orchestra to its fullest degree.

He did much the same in a rip-roaring performance of Shostakovich’s dark and sombre Symphony No.10. One can always sense the pained process of composition in this work but, thinking of the fearful political background as well as the artistic interference from apparatchiks, it becomes somewhat easier to understand. Petrenko brought raw intensity to the first movement, a massive argument subsiding into anger in the second movement, played fortissimo almost throughout. But at whom is that anger directed? Stalin? The state? Dictatorship? Even artists? Petrenko let loose in the finale, whipping the RLPO into a cataclysmic statement which brought the audience to its feet.

When it was announced that he was to stay in Liverpool beyond the terms of his present contract, Petrenko said he wanted to make the Liverpool Philharmonic the “best in the world”. He’s doing that. And Liverpool audiences know it.

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