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Night of light and shade from the Liverpool Phil.

SIBELIUS 2, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Sage Gateshead As the oldest surviving such ensemble in the UK, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra - known as the Liverpool Phil - celebrated its 175th anniversary last year.

Its worldwide reputation brought their musicians to the North East as guest performers at Sage Gateshead for the next instalment of the venue's Sibelius symphony season - his No 2, under their young principal conductor, the Russian Vasily Petrenko. This is a grand work in every way, from the engaging first movement to the dark second with its unusual pizzicato passage for the double basses and cellos, and hints of Sibelius' great tone poem, Finlandia, in the fullness of its major and minor chords.

The third movement is energetic, with the strings sounding like angry bees, and then it's straight into the lush and tuneful grand finale, with the familiar three-note figure being indulged time and time again.

The orchestra of just less than 80 brought out all of the composer's detail with great clarity. Full marks to the pin-sharp trumpet section, but the whole orchestra made the most of the opportunity, gaining a great reception for their efforts.

The concert opened with a work by another Scandinavian composer from the early 20th century, the Swede Hugo Alfven.

His Swedish Rhapsody No 1, more commonly known as the Midsummer Vigil, has a theme that is instantly familiar - even if it's not easy to place it in a previous context.

It's a carefree evocation of the party mood in that part of the world, at that time of the year when it is light for 24 hours a day.

The images are of dancing and merriment, with fine opportunities for the clarinet and horn players in particular to show their mettle, all the way through to its splendid and inspiring close. Great fun.

The major work in the first half of this concert was from the American Samuel Barber - of Adagio for Strings fame.

His 1939 Concerto for Violin and Orchestra followed after the famous Adagio and is everything an audience could want from such a work. It's lyrical and dramatic, with slower and more melancholy moments before the rhythmical and frenetic finale.

The brilliant young violinist Tai Murray, appropriately American, showed herself to be technically immaculate, playing the concerto with a beguiling combination of verve, elegance and maturity.

The penultimate symphony in the Sibelius season, his 6th, will be performed at the Gateshead venue by Royal Northern Sinfonia, conducted by Olli Mustonen, on May 5. Rob Barnes


<BViolinist Tai Murray

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 12, 2016
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