Royal Liverpool Philharmonic/Ryan Wigglesworth

Die Schöne Melusine – Concert Overture, Op.32
Piano Concerto in G, K453
A First Book of Inventions [World premiere]
Symphony No.2 in D, Op.36

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Ryan Wigglesworth (piano)

Reviewed by: Glyn Môn Hughes

Reviewed: 18 November, 2010
Venue: Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

Ryan Wigglesworth. Photograph: centrepiece of this performance was a world premiere by Ryan Wigglesworth, a jack-of-all-musical-trades making his début appearance with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra – as conductor, pianist and composer.

His short piece A First Book of Inventions was certainly an action-packed miniature for small orchestra. Its spikiness, often pitting triple rhythms against duple time, was reminiscent of Bartók, though the quite sumptuous orchestration was, at times, reminiscent of early Schoenberg. It is certainly an inventive piece, seven very short sections lasting barely nine minutes, in which he pushed most instruments to extremes, with high woodwind preceding a glorious slow movement which utilised string harmonics in a beautiful, glassy way. Invention six was the most memorable of all for its melodic inventiveness, all the more fascinating since it always managed to hold the attention. Indeed, if nothing else, Wigglesworth has a considerable skill for concentrated melodiousness.

The concert opened with The Fair Melusine, a piece of which the Mendelssohn was particularly proud. Wigglesworth pushed the work forward with considerable energy leaving poor Melusine a little short of breath. Wigglesworth was soloist for Mozart’s playful G major Piano Concerto. He brought huge jokiness to the graceful first movement and the piece giggled right the way through in this clean and efficient performance. The rather languid slow movement called for a little more contrast, and the finale sparkled.

Listening to Beethoven’s Second Symphony one was reminded about how comparatively unusual it is to find this piece in a concert. The opening movement was a solid affair which glided into a fine performance. The long drawn out Larghetto was just a little too loud throughout: it needed to be toned down somewhat to give some difference. But the teasing Minuet and a hugely playful finale ended this interesting programme.

Earlier it had been disconcerting to arrive at Philharmonic Hall to find the foyer crowd bemused by musicians wandering around, playing clarinets and snare drums and all sorts. Nobody from the Philharmonic, as far as it was possible to see, but a motley crew marking Long Night, a hugely concentrated festival of arts and culture. These brave souls were about to wander, playing their instruments, the long route to the Tate Gallery at Albert Dock. One could but wish them well, bearing in mind the wintry weather. Once at the Tate, they’d meet performers from the RLPO’s Ensemble 10/10, where another informal concert was scheduled to play right up to midnight.

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