Can it be only a year since Leicester’s First Citizen did his best to disgrace the city before visitors from the county and a world-class orchestra? It’s that time of year again: the launch of the Lord Mayor’s charitable appeal and the opening night of the Philharmonia’s continued residency at the De Montfort Hall.
A long week and a thorough drenching on the way home were partly undone by a hot bath and anticipation of some serious music. (Also a little listen to the new Jaroussky recording: more anon). The Philharmonia’s orchestral season in Leicester began on Friday with two young hotshots and three pieces of music. Krzystof Urbanski conducted part of Ma Vlast; Chopin’s first Piano Concerto and Dvořàk’s 9th. Ma Vlast cut to just ‘Vltava’ worked well enough, offering an expansive, hopeful even, start to the season.
Chopin’s Piano Concerto doesn’t, to me, seem quite first rank. It’s not Jersey Cream in the way Beethoven’s are; I’m not sure it’s ever made anyone really feel anything. But this was done really very well –the best kind of whole milk. That dairy analogy makes sense to me. The bumbling incoherence of the Lord Mayor and his launch of an appeal for inter alia the sea scouts (after all French men-o-war may attack Leicester at any given minute, and we must be ready), meant time was up and no encore.Full credit to Jan Lisiecki of whom I hope to hear more for fine piano playing.
After the interval, an almost faultless New World Symphony went so far beyond advertisements for electrocuted bread. This was symphony at its most evocative. The hope of a New World was served up here. Having been reading Conrad Richter’s description of Ohio forests in The Forest recently, I was immediately transported back. Was Paul Bunyan whispering in my ear? It seemed it. This seemed near perfect. So well done it was, so clear were the landscapes and promise of the New World, that this was music dealing with ideas rather than emotion. Almost.