Royal Liverpool Philharmonic/Petrekno Leigh Melrose

Tristan und Isolde – Prelude and Liebestod
Four Preludes and Serious Songs
Scherzo fantastique
The Poem of Ecstasy, Op.54

Leigh Melrose (baritone)

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Vasily Petrenko

Reviewed by: Glyn Môn Hughes

Reviewed: 7 November, 2009
Venue: Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

Vasily Petrenko. Photograph: Mark McNultyA relatively new piece – first performed in 2005 – by Detlev Glanert, showed that the development of Romanitc music is continuing. Glanert successfully links the four Brahms songs with his own orchestral interludes. He uses a Brahmsian orchestra and mimics the orchestration techniques of the senior composer.

In this concert, baritone Leigh Melrose joined the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra for what was a ponderous performance of the opening song, which lightened up considerably in the second one. This led into a satanic waltz interlude before plunging into the melancholy of the third setting. Most notable, though, was the positivity which pervaded the final song: Vasily Petrenko allowed himself to drift into total nothingness, with a long, tense silence at the end.

Petrenko brought a great deal of mischief to bear on the Scherzo fantastique of Stravinsky. Here the fireworks of the brilliant orchestration was allowed to fizz brilliantly into life and it was easy to hear the anticipation of scores such as The Firebird or Petrushka.

The ‘Prelude and Liebestod’ from “Tristan und Isolde” was understated for much of the performance though Petrenko made the most of the long and shapely phrasing. There was a heart-stopping, almost surreal moment when the transition from ‘Prelude’ to ‘Liebestod’ took place where Petrenko allowed the pace to increase, relentlessly pushing.

It will take a long time for the dust to settle after the performance of the Scriabin. There were thundering fortissimos and an absolutely cataclysmic cadence. But it was the individual orchestral sections – as well as the many solo lines in the piece – which take the credit. The nine horns, six trumpets, the array of percussion, the organist and the rest of the orchestra contributed so much to what was a massive statement of musical idealism.

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