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THEATRE REVIEW.

Byline: CATHERINE JONES Arts Editor catherine.jones@trinitymirror.com BodenJones @

YOU wait for one five star show - then two come along in successive evenings, and at opposite ends of the same street.

The riotous Dead Dog in a Suitcase is packing them in at the Everyman, while two minutes down Hope Street, a full house at the Phil was being taken back to the glory days of the RLPO's Mahler Edition.

It seems almost impossible that it was five years ago the orchestra, and chief conductor Vasily Petrenko, embarked on their two-season Mahler odyssey.

The Phil has been lauded for its cycle of Shostakovich recordings, but its live performances of Mahler's symphonies was an unexpected revelation.

Mahler's sixth was last performed at the hall in March 2011, but the rerun more than proved worth the wait.

While the first, second and fifth are perhaps better known, the sixth is truly a world in one symphony, or at least that's how it feels in the hands of Petrenko and an augmented Phil.

The piece has been given the nickname "tragic" by some, but the only tragedy is that it's not played more often - or at least not played like it was here, with gorgeous cinematic grandeur.

It's certainly epic, and Petrenko drew an epic performance from the RLPO, from the unflaggingly fierce opening march, through the romantic Alma Mahler theme on strings (cinematically, picture Scarlett O'Hara sweeping around in 15 yards of velvet curtain while Atlanta burns), faint hints of cowbell and on to all hell breaking loose in a massive surge of adrenaline-rush sound.

And that was only the first movement. As in 2011, Petrenko opted for the scherzo followed by andante middle movement configuration (reversing them, as many did for a number of years, seems musically perverse); the former a demonic "danse macabre", the latter a beautifully-modulated respite from the fray.

The extended finale brought a mysterious, magical opening ripple on harp, church bell chimes from off stage, brilliantly precise playing on stage, and Graham Johns on his handcrafted Hammerschlag, wielding the giant hammer with such force he must surely have gone home with a giant cuddly toy.

It was an all-round tour-de-force performance that ended dead on the 10pm witching hour.

The programme opened with a warmhearted, warm-toned performance of Schumann's little-known Violin Concerto - a work which certainly has a colourful history - from soloist Isabelle Faust.

Schumann's work, a proper partnership between violin and orchestra, is physically demanding, without being overly flamboyant.

And Faust seemed cooly unaffected by the exertion while spinning a lovely smooth contralto tone from her Stradivarius (the romantically-named Sleeping Beauty), along with some lovely phrasing and a real sense of storytelling.

The programme was repeated yesterday afternoon, when the rumour was Mahler's granddaughter - no less - might be in the audience.

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Violinist Isabelle Faust

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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 14, 2015
Words:471
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