SERENADE TO MUSIC RLPO; The GUIDE Review.
Byline: Catherine Jones
SO here we are, six weeks later than usual - and in the lofty grandeur of Liverpool Cathedral (the Phil still being a hard-hat area).
The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic's new season, it's ANNIVERSARY season, has finally got underway, with a concert which was perhaps solid rather than stunning, but which introduced a handful of the themes due to unfold over the coming year.
It's the Phil's 175th, making it the oldest continuous symphony orchestra in the UK, meaning the orchestra was already 25 when Richard Strauss was born. Its Strauss Edition marks the 150th anniversary of the German's birth, and the RLPO kicked off celebrations earlier this year.
Saturday night saw it bring out the big guns with an accomplished performance of his Also Sprach Zarathustra, with its opening sunrise sequence (pilfered of course by Kubrick for his 2001: A Space Odyssey) a good match for the soaring heights of the cathedral setting, and some beautiful work from the strings in particular and a lyrical dance sequence from orchestra leader Jim Clark.
The other themes touched upon are a nod to our cousins across the Atlantic, and anniversary commissions, rolled together here in a new work, Second Service, by prodigal American composer Nico Muhly, pairing the Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis in a nicely symmetrical and surprisingly melodic setting.
Sadly, it suffered somewhat - like the rest of the programme - from the cathedral's unhelpful acoustics, rendering the orchestra frustratingly blurry and indistinct, and playing havoc with the choir's diction.
While Elgar's jaunty Cockaigne Overture was swallowed whole by the space, Vaughan Williams' Serenade to Music, played with luscious, concentrated sweetness, and with chorister-like clarity of tone from the sopranos, remained the most satisfying piece. 7.5/10 solid opening