Review; BEETHOVEN'S EMPEROR RLPO/Federico Colli.
BEETHOVEN, Brahms, or the reappearance of maestro Petrenko after an extended winter absence? One or more of them was responsible for the full house - including choir stalls - for this first Philharmonic concert proper of 2014.
With the countdown to the hall's closure for refurbishment in May, and the promise of a 175th anniversary programme in the offing, hopefully audiences will remain strong for the remainder of the truncated season.
And whatever the reason for the rush for seats, there was an added bonus in a first - but hopefully not last - glimpse of rising piano virtuoso Federico Colli.
The slightly-built Italian, whose trademark appears to be a mop of curly hair and a neatly-tied cravat, has an impeccable pedigree having carried off first prize at both Salzburg in 2011 and the Leeds International Piano Festival in 2012.
And he's a prodigious young talent, making effortless work of Beethoven's masterful but technically demanding 'Emperor' piano concerto.
Visually, the cravat is the most flamboyant thing about Colli - his playing style is composed, with all his internal energy being channelled through long, elegant fingers and into a fluidly graceful, but technically impeccable, performance.
The flourish of the opening movement was impressive, but the central allegro, with its gossamer soft piano and delicate accompaniment by the Phil - including Fiona Fulton's delightful flute playing - was a thing of beauty.
Colli gave another display of understated virtuosity in a Scarlatti sonata encore. And with the original soloist for Sunday's concert indisposed, it gives audiences a second chance to hear the 25-yearold, this time playing Mozart. While Hindemith spent the 1920s writing lean music for small ensembles, his 1930 Concert Music For Strings and Brass is a cascade of sound, here brought thrillingly and powerfully to life by the Phil's strings and brass sections, including an opening which is the tricky musical equivalent of patting your head and rubbing your tummy.
Meanwhile Beethoven was bookended with Brahms - Symphony No 3, played with a lovely warmth and radiance by the orchestra, with Petrenko driving through the opening adagio (being picky the final chord felt a little uncertain) with sweeping baton arm, and drawing out a romanticism from the middle movements.
9/10 virtuoso show