Royal Liverpool Philharmonic/Vasily Petrenko Julia Lezhneva – Rossini, Prokofiev & Mendelssohn

Semiramide – Overture
La cenerentola – Nacqui all’affano
La donna del lago – O mattutini albori
Zelmira – Riedi al soglio
Symphony No.1 in D, Op.25 (Classical)
Ruy Blas Overture, Op.95
Symphony No.5 in D minor, Op.107 (Reformation)

Julia Lezhneva (soprano)

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Vasily Petrenko

Reviewed by: Glyn Môn Hughes

Reviewed: 19 February, 2009
Venue: Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

Julia Lezhneva. Photograph: yuliyalezhneva.ruThe Overture to Rossini’s last opera composed in Italy, “Semiramide” (“William Tell” was his final opera), was bright and insistent. The opera itself is a grand work, sometimes tragic, often comic and that trait shows through in this opener: stern brass outbursts tempered with chattering, teasing strings. Vasily Petrenko’s conducting of the RLPO seemed to acquire a whole new lease of life. The long and demanding crescendos one associates with this composer led to huge, exciting moments which brought the orchestra alive.

That excitement continued with the UK professional debut of Julia Lezhneva, singing three arias from Rossini operas. This diminutive Russian soprano is barely 20 but has a big and hugely flexible voice which showed maturity and promise. She is presently studying with Dennis O’Neill in Cardiff and her ability to cope with the demanding runs written by Rossini – and to hear each note individually – was highly striking.

Vasily Petrenko. Photograph: Mark McNultyA delicate and polished performance of Prokofiev’s ‘Classical’ Symphony followed, the third movement ‘Gavotte’ beginning in a deliberately theatrical way but trailing off to nothing. But it was the Mendelssohn second half which proved most interesting. The Ruy Blas Overture was as urgent as it was pungent with some highly pointed brass interjections. The ecclesiastical connections of the ‘Reformation’ Symphony are obvious, from the use of the ‘Dresden Amen’ in the first movement – a motif used extensively by Wagner in “Parsifal” – and the plagal (Amen) cadence at the end of the movement. A joyous scherzo led to a thoughtful slow movement. The bridge into the finale produced some ecstatic flute playing, the movement itself, a working of “Ein’ feste Burg” – one of Martin Luther’s finest chorales – was a solid statement and a fine interpretation of this moving work.

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