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CONCERT REVIEW: Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonic Hall.

Byline: Glyn Mon Hughes

THERE was just a hint of clairvoyance in the Philharmonic's programming for once.

They had planned a rather sumptuous programme of showpieces: a massive piano concerto with a world-class star plus a great Strauss symphonic work - all to be played on the very day that Liverpool captured the title of Capital of Culture. Good move, that.Let's hope they can keep it going for the next decade,or so.

And there was something of a party atmosphere from the ever exuberant Peter Toyne telling us that the future of the orchestra is now secure. If that is just one of the spinoffs from this newly-acquiredacco-lade, thenI'dalmost say the effort has been worth it!

We had a performance of Ian Stephens'fanfare,A World in One City,and a fragment from Beethoven's NinthSymphony.The smiles on the faces of both Peter Toyne and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic music director Gerard Schwarz said it all. This is a good thing,indeed,for music making in this city.

And the concert? Good stuff. The unusual combined with the familiar, power and subtlety in the one programme.

Rachmaninov's ThreeRussian Songs were hugely characteristic of this most evocative of composers. They were far from the deep,heart-felt church music which is so memorable. But they were far from lightweight. In the first song, the men felt a little underpowered and slightly insecure while,in the second, the women were quite superb, singing as one, with some powerful unison moments. The final song was gentle and showed the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir off to its best advantage: disciplined and powerful, although the orchestra tended to overpower at times.

Peter Donohoe's quite breathtaking performance of Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto was the real centre point of the evening. The first movement might have felt a little rushed,but there was a luxuriant sound with wonderfully expansivemelodies. Add to that an intense adagio and a spine-tingling finale and this was a great Philharmonic performance.

Strauss's Symphoniadomestica - a musical interpretation of home life - showed the composer at his most luxuriant. Imagine a 100-plus symphony orchestra charting your day. A double fugue at the end - and I have trouble with feeding the cat and coping with corn flakes in the early morning.

A great piece,I am sure,and a rousing performance. Romanticism gone mad.

But a great performance from Schwarz and the RLPO. A real jewel in the crown of the cultural capital.
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 7, 2003
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