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Art: Europe dates for orchestra; Phil to resume touring.

Byline: Joe Riley

THEY do it because they want to - and because they say they need to.

The Liverpool Phil is to resume a significant touring programme after 10 years of being limited to hopping between Merseyside and Prague, since an American tour in 1996.

More than a decade with Czech chief conductors Libor Pesek and Petr Altrichter brought about the connection with the Liverpool orchestra guesting at the Prague spring and autumn festivals.

But a pounds 3m debt led to a ban on more extensive international travel.

However, after a small surplus for a second year, confidence has returned.

The Mersey musicians have been booked for six concerts in Spain next month and an open-air concert in Malta in July.

Plans are also being made for a major European tour, including Vienna, as standard-bearers for Capital of Culture in 2008.

Andrew Cornall, the orchestra's executive director explains: "Players WANT to show their worth to wider audiences. That is why we can attract top talent and keep it based in Liverpool.

"The Phil also NEEDS to feature on a world stage. In that sense, we are the most mobile major arts organisation in Merseyside."

The plan is to get the pounds 100,000 tour costs covered by the Maltese and Spanish hosts. There's no touring nowadays for orchestras where the figures don't add up.

"We have to be careful. We don't have the millions of euros in sponsorship companies such as UBS (United Bank of Switzerland) put into bands like the Berlin Philharmonic, and which effectively pays for touring.

"Our aim is to break even. Who knows, there may even be a tenner left over for a drink at the end of it."

In Spain, under the baton of their present music director, the American Gerard Schwarz (March 6-13), the Phil will play two concerts at the National Music Hall in Madrid, plus dates in Murcia, Valencia, Oviedo and Zaragoza.

In Malta, (July 8) directed by their Russian conductor-elect, Vasily Petrenko, the Phil will play to an audience of 2,500 in the castle courtyard at Valeta.

The Spanish programmes include Wagner and Richard Strauss to reflect Schwarz's particular interests' adds some Hindemith and Tchaikovsky' has the veteran violinist Boris Belkin repeating his recent Liverpool success with a Shostakovich concerto, and also takes in a 'love concerto' by the Spaniard Moreno Buendia, played by fellow countryman Garbriel Estarellas.

"It's a light, almost film-like piece," says Andrew Cornall.

The Ritual Dances from The Midsummer Marriage mark the birth centenary of composer Michael Tippett, and respond to a Spanish request for something English.

The Valeta concert mirrors Vasily Petrenko's love of opera (Carmen, Faust, La Traviata, Rigoletto etc) and headlines the Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja.

"I signed Joseph for Decca when I was a record producer," recalls Andrew.

In Spain, the Phil follows in the footsteps of the famed Leipzig orchestra (founded by Mendelssohn), and in Malta, hot on the heels of the legendary Ricardo Muti and his Cherubini Orchestra of young musicians.

And the two things already guaranteed?

"Good weather in Malta," says Andrew. "They also want us to consider returning each year as they build up a new summer festival."

CAPTION(S):

SUMMER TOUR: The Phil will perform under Russian conductor-elect Vasily Petrenko in Malta in July
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 24, 2006
Words:547
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