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CLASSICAL Memorable Melodies/ RLPO, Litton, Philharmonic Hall.


THE Phil's latest Classic FM concert was called Memorable Melodies.

And that's just what it was. Some nice pieces, with no discernible link one with another ... cue the comments from readers to tell me I've missed something. But then why does a concert need a theme? Two Stravinsky pieces served as bookends. His Circus Polka, a five-minute wonder which packs a savage punch, opened affairs. It's full of fun, bubbling over all the time, every bit the background music to the goings-on in the circus ring. Andrew Litton, conducting the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, entered into the spirit grand style. The closing piece was Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, in its 1945 revision. This is a piece which never fails to fascinate, mainly on account of its incredibly inventive orchestration - witness the numerous curtain calls Litton gave to RLPO players and deservedly so.

From the delicate, mysterious opening, through the intense, fortissimo drama of the Infernal Dance to the slinky lullaby - and not forgetting the spirited finale, Litton led a fine performance of this ballet score. He was the soloist in a searing performance of Shostakovich's Second Piano Concerto, made all the better because they cut out the middle man. Here, there was an energy which scurried along, barely letting go for the languid slow movement.

The opening movement was spirited, with some splendidly spiky rhythms. It even seemed to gain a momentum of its own as it progressed. That slow movement gave a brief moment of relaxation and then it was into a relentless finale.

Perhaps less successful was Litton's rather lumpen performance of Finzi's delightful Eclogue for Piano and Strings, a piece full of English gentility and wistfulness which began rather ploddingly, but improved as it progressed.

Add a delightfully understated performance of Delius's On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring, and this made for a memorable evening.

Glyn Mon Hughes
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 3, 2011
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