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REVIEW: MUSIC; Brahms Royal Philharmonic Hall.


IT GOES without saying there will be "dream teams" in a football-mad city like Liverpool. But this "dream team" has long been associated with Liverpool Philharmonic's hugely potent marketing force. Chief conductor Vasily Petrenko and pianist Simon Trpceski have become box office golden boys, with tickets selling instantly and recordings garnering cupboards-full of trophies. Indeed, as Trpceski pointed out as he introduced his post-concerto encore, it's been 15 years since his first concert appearance on Hope Street.

Their latest was the last of the series examining Brahms. These have included four symphonies, the German Requiem and just the first piano concerto.

"Just" might not be kind. It is not an easy work, neither for performers nor listeners. But this was a mature, robust performance. The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra seemed to be on edge, accepting the "dream team" was in town and that this was not the time to score an own goal.

Seconds before his encore performance of a snippet from Brahms' Schumann Variations - dedicated to RLPO musicians - he announced that 15-year anniversary, to the tumultuous applause of a full Liverpool Sunday audience.

This performance of Brahms' Piano Concerto No 1 showed clear and defined empathy between soloist and conductor. The first movement was robust, if not pompous, almost emphasising points of argument between orchestra and soloist. But, throughout, there was drama. It's not a piece which has humour as a trait but, occasionally, Petrenko let those light beams show.

And drama? That sudden piano outburst at the start of the development section, sublime, if not arresting. Then the stunning diminuendo leading into the explosive conclusion to the whole movement.

The Adagio was reserved, almost eerie, although the inherent drama rarely failed. And then that stupendous Rondo. Its arrival was precipitous, surprising. Here there was humour, bravado. It was also possible to see Trpceski enjoying himself, bouncing on the piano stool and laughing as he played.

Brahms' Fourth Symphony was an altogether more black and white event. It presented bright and dark, the sombre pitted against the humorous, witty side of the composer.

The huge questions presented by the first movement were airily asked by both conductor and orchestra. It was a shapely performance which brought a lot to bear on the audience (a six-minute highly informative explanation of the work by Petrenko, in addition to the programme notes, helped).

There followed a solid Andante which melted into a seriously raucous and, perhaps, rather too energetic third movement, followed by a sublime and hugely conclusive finale.

Add to that some brilliant brass playing, the horns especially, as well as some splendid string moments, and this was a Brahms exploration well worth following. .....


'Dream team' - Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conductor Vasily Petrenko with pianist Simon Trpceski Picture: DAVID MUNN

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 21, 2018
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